Delivering outpatient care is a core activity of the acute hospital system. They include Emergency Department services as well as planned services provided on an out-patient basis. For example, you may be referred by your family doctor (GP) for specialist assessment by a consultant or his or her team or for diagnostic assessments such as x-rays or laboratory tests or for treatment such as physiotherapy. Patients can access diagnostics, face to face consultation, certain procedures or consultation or treatments with medical staff.
In 2015 3.2 million patients attended outpatient services including 2.2 million review patients and 1 million new patients.
The National Treatment Purchase Fund compiles data each month on the number of patients and the length of time they are waiting for an outpatient appointment. This also includes a breakdown of information by area of speciality.
Over 416,000 patients failed to attend their outpatient appointment. If you cannot attend your appointment please notify the hospital department as soon as you can This will allow another patient to avail of the service and will help to reduce patient waiting times for outpatients services
If you go to the out-patients or Emergency Department of a public hospital without being referred there by your GP, you may be charged €100. This charge does not apply to the following groups:
- Medical card holders
- People receiving treatment for prescribed infectious diseases
- Children referred for treatment from child health clinics and school health examinations
- People who are entitled to hospital services because of EU Regulations
- Women receiving maternity services
In cases of excessive hardship, a HSE Area may provide the service free of charge.
If you have to return for further visits in relation to the same illness or accident, you do not have to pay the charge again.
Outpatient Services Performance Improvement Programme
The Outpatient Services Performance Improvement Programme (OSPIP) 2016-2020 aims to address key issues affecting outpatient services (OP), including wait times for access to services, standardisation in delivery of service, service capacity and/or waste of capacity and ad-hoc development of services.
The programme is also looking at how outpatient services could be delivered outside of hospitals in community services such as Primary Care Centres and GP practices..
Strategy for the Redesign of Outpatient Services 2016-2020 sets out the vision for the redesign of outpatient services and builds upon the work of the performance improvement programme carried out between 2011 and 2015.
The Programme will work with a wide range of stakeholders to reorganise services to deliver the very best in modern healthcare, in the best location, when it is needed, while at the same time, delivering value for money to the population that funds this healthcare.
The HSE National Service Plan 2017 target for Outpatient Services is:
The Percentage of people waiting less than 52 weeks for first access to Outpatient Department Services:The target is 85%
The National Service Plan has further details and the NTPF monitors compliance with these targets.
Hospitals also record daily the time patients wait for treatment in Emergency Departments from the time the patient registers in ED to the time they receive treatment. This information assists hospitals to improve patient experience in ED and helps hospitals to manage and monitor Emergency Department performance against the 6 hour and 9 hour national targets for all EDs. The information is published in monthly performance reports.