I acknowledge that waiting times are often unacceptably long and I am conscious of the impact of this on people’s lives.
Reducing waiting times for the longest waiting patients is one of this Government's key priorities. Consequently, Budget 2017 allocated €20 million to the NTPF, rising to €55 million in 2018.
In December 2016, I granted approval to the NTPF for the first tranche of funding in the region of €5m for a waiting list initiative with the aim of ensuring that in excess of 2000 patients waiting more than 18 months for a daycase procedure will have received an appointment for their procedure by 30 June 2017.
In order to reduce the numbers of long-waiting patients, I asked the HSE to develop Waiting List Action Plans for 2017 in the areas of Inpatient/Daycase, Scoliosis and Outpatient Services. These plans have now been finalised and will be communicated shortly.
In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, my Department has commenced a capacity review. This review will examine key elements of primary and community care infrastructure in addition to hospital beds.
Given the current pressures being experienced within our hospital services, the process must also have a short-term focus and determine how capital investment over the coming years can be best targeted. The review will be finalised for publication later in the year.
The Deputy may also wish to note that I recently met with the Irish Cardiac Society to discuss possible approaches to reduce waiting times for cardiac surgery patients. At this meeting it was agreed that the HSE would liaise with the Society to put forward proposals to reduce these waiting times.