Maureen O’Sullivan (Dublin Central, Independent)
Question: To ask the Minister for Health the way he will deal with the distress experienced by the number of public hospital patients experiencing long delays and lack of clarity over dates for procedures taking place; in view of the closure of projects such as the national treatment purchase scheme, if he is in a position to offer measures to address this distress to ensure that hospitals provide patients with realistic waiting times and time limits for procedures to take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37531/14]
Leo Varadkar (Minister, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
Answer: The HSE is continuing to experience a significant increase in demand for its services which is reflected in an upward trend reported in waiting lists for July 2014. The success of the outpatient initiative run by the HSE at the end of 2013 and further validation work in 2014 resulted in facilitation of 33,000 additional outpatient appointments in 2013 and an additional 55,883 outpatient appointments thus far in 2014.
Increases in outpatient activity have had the consequence of driving up in-patient and day case waiting lists as patients are referred for appropriate treatment. In addition, other pressures such as almost 30,000 new cancer diagnoses each year place increasing demands of the order of 3000 – 6000 additional referral requirements on the system each month.
The role of the National Treatment Purchase Fund is working in close co-operation with the SDU to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the service, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs.
The HSE National Director of Acute Hospital Services has asked all hospitals to provide an action plan to address their waiting lists. These individual hospital plans will be assessed and monitored by the SDU/NTPF scheduled care team. There are several potential strategies hospitals can use when planning their resources most effectively around the delivery of the national access targets for their patients. For example, improvements in chronological scheduling, consistent validation of waiting lists and active engagement with patients to reduce ‘DNA’ or Did Not Attend rates are underway to address outpatient waiting lists; similar measures, as well as optimisation of theatre capacity and day of surgery admission where possible are being employed to improve management of in-patient and day case waiting lists. The HSE, in collaboration with the SDU and all acute hospitals, is continuing to tackle waiting lists for the remainder of 2014.