Improving access to outpatient services across all specialties, including ear, nose and throat, is a key priority for the Government. Collaborating with individual hospitals, the SDU, together with NTPF and HSE has developed the outpatient waiting list minimum dataset. This allows data to be submitted to the NTPF from hospitals on a weekly basis so that, for the first time, outpatient data is available on www.ntpf.ie. The data currently show numbers waiting over the various time-bands for a first appointment at a consultant-led clinic. Future enhancements will include numbers reported by specialty in addition to the breakdown by hospital.
For 2013, a maximum waiting time target has been set of 12 months for a first time consultant-led outpatient appointment and this is reflected in the HSE Service Plan. In working towards the maximum wait times, the SDU and NTPF are working closely with hospitals to analyse performance and to agree action plans for 2013 and extra support as necessary. In parallel, reforming the structure and organisation and delivery of outpatient services is continuing through the Outpatient (OPD) Service Performance Improvement Programme. This national programme, being implemented between 2012 and 2015, encompasses the HSE, SDU, the NTPF and all hospitals providing outpatient services. Key elements include on-going validation and management of waiting lists, the systematic and standardised management of referrals from primary care, a reduction in unacceptably high “do not attend” rates, standardising productivity rates within specialties, appropriate discharging from OP services when clinically appropriate to do so.