Reducing waiting times for the longest waiting patients is one of the Government’s key priorities, according to Minister for Health Simon Harris, who was responding to the RTÉ One Prime Time Investigates “Living on the List” programme.
“The personal stories of the people waiting for treatment are deeply moving and the experiences they describe are absolutely inexcusable. The programme clearly illustrates the physical and emotional burden of waiting for long periods for both patients and their families.
“I am keenly aware of this burden and it is for this reason that last summer I requested that the HSE put in place an Action Plan to halve the number of patients waiting over 18 months for treatment. Last month, I announced the successful completion of this Action Plan with over 11,500 patients coming off the Inpatient/ Daycase waiting list in the second half of 2016.
“However, I think it is important to note that, while there are still too many people who have to wait too long for their treatment, as of last December, only 2% of patients were waiting longer than 18 months for treatment. 93% were receiving treatment within 15 months and over half were receiving treatment within 6 months.
“In 2017 I am determined that the HSE builds on last year’s progress and reduce waiting time for our longest waiters. The plan will require close collaboration between the NTPF, the HSE and the Department and will comprise the following elements:
1. Firstly the NTPF allocation for 2017 will utilise capacity in the private acute hospital sector to provide treatment for our longest waiting patients on the Inpatient/Daycase waiting list;
2. In addition, I have asked the HSE to submit an Action Plan to improve waiting lists in the public acute hospital sector for inpatients and daycases and outpatients, which I expect to receive shortly;
3. Finally, during 2017 the HSE and the NTPF will work strategically and collaboratively together to ensure the best use of public and private hospital capacity to reduce patients waiting times.
In relation to concerns raised about the NTPF Waiting List figures, the Minister stated:
“I understand the waiting list figures have been consistently counted the same way since the establishment of the NTPF and follow other international models, for example Sweden and Canada. The NTPF Waiting List figures provide an up-to-date and verified picture of patients actively waiting for a date for treatment. The approach here is in line with international protocols but it is important the NTPF keeps its processes under regular review to ensure best practice and it is welcome the Fund is currently commissioning a research project examining updated international best practice around publication models and methodologies. I look forward to that work being concluded and to any action arising from its recommendations being taken.”