Improving access to hospital services for patients is a priority in the Programme for Government. In July 2011, I established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) as set out in the Programme for Government, with the aim of unblocking access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system. Since then, the number of adults waiting over nine months has fallen by 25%, the number of children waiting over three months has fallen by 47% and the number of people waiting over three months for GI endoscopy is down by 89%.
By the end of 2012, the SDU had made significant progress in achieving the maximum waiting time targets of nine months for adults and 20 weeks for children awaiting inpatient or daycase treatment, and 13 weeks for those awaiting a routine GI endoscopy. By December, 86 adults and 89 children were waiting longer than the maximum waiting time targets, while 36 patients were waiting longer than 13 weeks for routine endoscopy.
For 2013, the maximum wait time for adults has been further reduced to eight months. However, the early months of the year brought severe pressures on Emergency Departments which impacted on waiting times and figures at 2 May show:
- A total of 39,064 (88% of total ) adults waiting less than 8 months;
- 5,392 adults waiting longer than eight months;
- 3,725 adults waiting longer than nine months;
- 717 adults waiting longer 12 months;
- A total of 2,889 (80% of total) children waiting less than 20 weeks;
- 716 children waiting longer than 20 weeks;
- A total of 7,876 (90% of total) waiting less than 13 weeks;
- 917 patients waiting longer than 13 weeks.
The SDU together with the NTPF and the HSE is undertaking a range of measures to work towards the 2013 maximum wait times. This involves working closely with hospitals to analyse performance, to agree action plans and extra support as necessary and to ensure hospital capacity is being optimised.
Neither my Department nor the HSE has a function in relation to the gathering of waiting list data for the private hospital sector. Therefore, a comparison between public and private waiting lists is not available. However, I can assure the Deputy that my Department will continue to focus its resources on reducing waiting lists in line with the Government’s commitment to deliver rapid and equitable access to health services.