Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Questions (530)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

530. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Health his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding health care; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11737/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Government committed to improving the waiting times for Consultant outpatient appointments and commenced work on this with the publication of the first validated Outpatient waiting list in March 2013. In the 9 months between when these figures were first collated and the end of 2013, the total number of patients awaiting first Outpatient referral appointments has reduced by 25% from 399,951 to 300,752 . Of these, 295,815 are waiting less than 12 months, a level of 98.4% compliance with the Government target of 12 months.

- Numbers waiting 12-24 months have reduced by 94%, from 67,529 down to 3,990

- Numbers waiting 24-36 months have reduced by 97%, from 23,726 down to 706

- Numbers waiting 36-48 months have reduced by 97%, from 7,802 down to 197

- Numbers waiting 48+ months have reduced by 99%, from 7,795 down to 44

Of course, referrals for first time appointments are only one part of the activity taking place in Outpatient clinics. In 2013 the 736,960 new referrals seen by consultants accounted for approximately 30% of their total Outpatient workload: a further 1,720,850 return appointments brought the full number of attendances at Outpatient clinics to 2,457,810. A key part of the management of outpatient waiting lists, is addressing the loss of 16% of the total potential outpatient capacity due to patients not attending scheduled outpatient appointments (often referred to as the ‘Do Not Attend’ or ‘DNA’ rate). Through the introduction of validation of current waiting lists, revised control processes in respect of patients who fail to attend booked appointments, using texts and/or letters to prompt patients about forthcoming appointments, facilitating patient choice in the arrangement of appointments and the use of electronic referral systems, it is intended to reduce the ‘DNA’ rate to 10% in 2014.

Finally, it should be borne in mind that a patient's first point of call should always be to their GP, rather than seeking direct self-referral or referral from another source, as the patient's GP is most likely to have a greater knowledge of their previous medical history, current co-morbidities and other factors which may be essential to the consultant in order to provide the most appropriate and effective care.