Trolley numbers dropped by over half after the June bank holiday after appeals to staff to volunteer for work over the weekend, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Fewer people attended and were admitted by hospital emergency departments than over the same weekend last year, yet more patients were discharged, HSE figures show.
The number of patients waiting to be admitted to hospital has continued below recent averages all week, in a further indication that the volunteered additional work last weekend has helped reduce overcrowding.
Hospitals were busy over the weekend, with 13,884 people attending emergency departments, down from 13,953 over the same weekend in 2022. Some 3,160 were admitted, down from 3,462 a year ago.
Despite fewer admissions over the period, discharges went up to 2,370, 263 more than in 2022.
On the Tuesday after the weekend, trolley figures were down 58 per cent over the comparable day last year.
“Senior decision makers, patient flow and discharge co-ordinators were available at the weekend to ensure all available bed capacity across sites were used, additional measures included expansion of community intervention team services and additional staffing across a number of disciplines, including triage staff,” a HSE spokeswoman said.
“Hospitals also prepared for the weekend by maximising discharges to reduce delayed transfers of care, increasing access to diagnostics and investigations to optimise patient flow within the hospitals and supporting the patient journey through the hospital and home or to a step down or long term care facility as quickly as possible after completing treatment.”
New HSE chief executive Bernard Gloster has made greater seven-day working a central priority, though this will require renegotiation of existing arrangements with staff unions. In the short term, and as occurred last January, Mr Gloster has appealed to staff in key areas to volunteer to work over peak weekends in order to alleviate overcrowding.
Meanwhile, more than 600,000 patients were waiting for a first appointment with a hospital consultant at the end of May, the highest figure this year.
Waiting lists for inpatient procedures and gastrointestinal scopes were slightly down, according to the latest monthly data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund.
There were 600,888 patients waiting for an outpatient appointment last month, up over 3,000 on the previous month. This is in spite of massive Government investment in initiatives to cut waiting times for patients.
The number of outpatients waiting over 18 months fell by under 2,000, to 85,665.
There were 84,449 people waiting for an inpatient procedure and 23,122 on the GI endoscopy list. The numbers of inpatients waiting over 18 months increased marginally, to 8,536.
The Department of Health said “higher-than-expected” addition to waiting lists had offset “ahead of target” activity under waiting list action plans.
A total of 497,090 patients are now waiting longer than the Slaintecare maximum waiting times, up 1 per cent on April.
“Like many other countries, Ireland has experienced an increased level of waiting list additions since the start of this year, that is unfortunately more than negating the increased levels of activity being delivered by the HSE and NTPF during the same period.”
The situation will improve in June “as the post-pandemic and winter pressures on our hospitals hopefully begin to ease,” the Department predicted.