I am not aware of any particular abuse that has been identified. If the Deputy wants to write to me with the details and evidence, I will certainly have the matter investigated, as is always the case. As this initiative has only started in the past couple of weeks, it is too soon, obviously, to have it audited. It is necessary. Having people waiting so long for outpatient appointments and treatment is a huge risk. Frankly, I do not think waiting periods of 15 months and 18 months are particularly ambitious targets, as the figure should be a lot less than that and closer to three or six months. However, we are doing what we can within available resources.
I accept that there is certainly potential for conflicts of interest. There is also potential for moral hazard because, when one pursues waiting list initiatives such as this, one sometimes ends up rewarding those who are not performing and those who are not keeping their waiting lists down and there are, of course, other risks. However, in this case, we really had to put patient safety and patient outcomes first, ahead of all those legitimate concerns about initiatives such as this.
One thing that is very different between what is being done and what was done by the NTPF is that it is not a case of people self-referring. What is happening is that somebody is going through the waiting lists, validating them, finding the people who are waiting for very long periods of time and offering them treatment. Where it is possible, we are using existing public facilities, but, sometimes, that is not possible. To give one simple example, there is just not enough theatre space in Crumlin hospital to undertake the number of scoliosis operations that need to be performed on young children. As a result, a number of cases have been dealt with in Blackrock, Temple Street and Cappagh hospitals, as well as in other public and private hospitals, and more will be dealt with because that is what is required.