The National Treatment Purchase Fund's primary role is provide treatment for those public patients waiting longest for surgery or diagnostic services principally, through providing additional treatment capacity, largely from private hospitals. Its discrete budget ensures that these resources are used for elective activity and not diverted.
The Fund is obliged as a matter of policy, to source at least 90% of treatment from the private system. Capacity is purchased from the public hospital system for activity, such as paediatric surgery, which cannot be carried out in private hospitals, but this activity must not adversely affect core services. In 2010, the NTPF sourced 7% of its activity from the public system.
There are no plans to change the Fund's role or the way it operates. Its operation is subject to ongoing monitoring and review, to ensure that resources are used efficiently and are targeted so that they achieve the greatest benefit for patients. I have emphasised to the Fund the need for maximum cost-effectiveness, consistent with safe and effective care. I have asked it to seek even better value from private hospitals and the Fund has successfully negotiated price reductions for certain high-volume procedures. In addition, it will not purchase services where the price is not acceptable.
In light of the report of the Expert Group on Resource Allocation, I have instructed the HSE to develop pilot arrangements with the NTPF for the prospective activity-based funding of certain elective orthopaedic procedures and a more innovative approach to respite services for people with disabilities.
For respite services, I have asked the HSE to undertake a study with the NTPF in two pilot areas, Galway and Limerick, to assess the relative cost effectiveness of different approaches to the provision of respite care by both statutory and voluntary providers.
The objectives of the orthopaedic initiative would include more patient treatments and reductions in waiting times and the average cost of treatments. Clinical guidelines and protocols will support efficient care and the achievement of good patient outcomes. I have asked the Executive to undertake the necessary preparatory work with the Fund in the first quarter of 2011, with a view to the pilot will commencing in April.