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Written Answers - Hospital Waiting Lists

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 34.  Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  asked the Minister for Health Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly  the number of day case patient and elective inpatients on waiting lists at the end of 2010; if he will provide the same figure for the end of 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16477/12]

Minister for Health (Deputy James Reilly): Information on James Reilly Zoom on James Reilly The Special Delivery Unit was established in my Department last July to tackle patient wait times for hospital services. Unacceptably high wait times have been tolerated for too long and had become systemic for both unscheduled and scheduled care. The problems have to be tackled step by step so that improvements can be sustained.

The SDU immediately began work with the HSE and the NTPF on the problem of trolley waits and long waits for inpatient care. Last July I introduced a strict policy of chronological management of inpatient waiting lists so that those waiting longest are treated first. I set a target of 12 months maximum waiting time for treatment to be overseen by the SDU/NTPF.

In August the SDU/NTPF identified that there were 9,657 patients waiting for treatment to meet the 12 month target. By the end of the year all but 372 had been treated.

The challenge is not only to maintain the 12 month waiting time target for inpatient and day case procedures nationally but to continually improve and move to a 9 month maximum waiting time by the end of 2012. Targeting the longest waiters will have some effect on the wait times for some patients.

[710]The NTPF is working constantly with hospitals to maintain the policy of chronological management, whilst taking into account the challenges arising from issues such as seasonal admissions / cost containment measures / infection control.

In relation to the specific questions raised by the Deputy in December 2010 the NTPF recorded 15,490 patients waiting for in patient treatment and 35,092 patients waiting day for day case treatment. The corresponding numbers waiting in December 2011 were 15,753 and 44,079 respectively. These figures refer to those on waiting lists for all medical and surgical admissions from the first day on the waiting list. While there has been some increase in the number of people on waiting lists, the real focus needs to be on the period of time waiting rather than the numbers waiting. I have also said from the very outset that targeting the longest waiters would inevitably mean a modest increase in waiting time for some patients. This is inevitable because resources and capacity are limited. The median waiting time for April 2011 was 2.6 months, in November 2011 it was 2.7 months and in December 2011 it was 2.8 months. I would prefer if this could be avoided but the average increase is a matter of days and the new regime is far more equitable.

Building on the achievements of 2011 the SDU will work with the NTPF, the HSE Clinical Programmes and hospitals to minimise patient waiting times in emergency departments and reduce waiting periods for inpatient and day case elective surgical care. The improvements already won have to be secured and continually improved upon.

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