Written Answers. - Hospital Waiting Lists.

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

638 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if his attention has been drawn to the pain and suffering of patients awaiting access to hip replacement operations; the action, if any, he will take to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2197/99]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

641 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the waiting lists for hip replacement, heart surgery and removal of cataracts has decreased or increased during December 1998; the plans, if any, he has to reduce these waiting lists within the near future in view of the pain and suffering of the patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2201/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 638 and 641 together.

Waiting list figures for the quarter ending December 1998 are not yet available. I am fully aware of the difficult situation of patients who are awaiting different surgical procedures. I have taken a series of measures to improve the waiting times for target specialties, including hip replacements. These include the provision of £20 million for the treatment of patients on waiting lists. This represents an increase of two-thirds over the 1998 figure and is 2.5 times higher than the amount allocated for waiting lists in 1997 by the previous Government; the provision of £9 million to services for older people. This will help to free up acute hospital beds, some of which are occupied at present by patients who cannot be accommodated in sub-acute or rehabilitation facilities; the provision of £2 million to selected accident and emergency services. This will again ensure that acute facilities are more easily available for elective work, including treatments for patients on waiting lists; and, the issuing of a new policy circular and guidelines to all relevant agencies regarding the way in which waiting list initiative should be operated in future.