This Government is committed to improving waiting times for patients. While recognising that demand for acute hospital services has increased, the important issue for patients is how long they wait.
Under the HSE Service Plan 2016 targets, 85% of people should be waiting less than 52 weeks for their first outpatient appointment. The latest NTPF Outpatient Waiting List figures indicate that 75% of people in Mayo University Hospital are waiting less than 52 weeks for their first outpatient appointment. 87% of people are waiting less than 18 months for access to outpatient services.
In August, I asked the HSE to develop a Waiting List Action Plan for 2016 to reduce by year end the number of patients waiting over 18 months for an inpatient or day case procedure. Since then, approximately 6,500 patients have been removed from the waiting list nationally.
Regarding outpatient waiting lists in particular, the HSE recently launched the Strategy for the design of Integrated Outpatient Services 2016-2020. It seeks to improve waiting times for outpatient services by enhancing patient referral pathways and utilising technology to enable better planning.
Budget 2017 provides for the treatment of our longest-waiting patients. €20m is being allocated to the NTPF in 2017, rising to €55m in 2018. Planning of these initiatives is currently being finalised. I will shortly be asking the HSE to develop a Waiting List Action Plan for 2017, working collaboratively with the NTPF, to address inpatient, day case and also outpatient waiting times.