Reducing waiting times for the longest waiting patients is one of the Government's key priorities. It is for this reason that €20 million was allocated to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), rising to €55 million in 2018. 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 been published and their implementation is ongoing.
The Inpatient/Daycase and Outpatient Plans focus on reducing the number of patients waiting 15 months or more for inpatient and daycase treatment or for an outpatient appointment by the end of October. Under these plans over 14,700 patients have come off Inpatient/ Daycase waiting lists, and over 51,000 patients have come off the Outpatient waiting list, and 148 scoliosis surgeries have taken place. The Department of Health will continue to work with the HSE and the NTPF to ensure the best use of public hospital capacity and the private hospital system to meet the needs of patients waiting for Inpatient, Daycase and Outpatient Services.
Regarding capacity at St James's Hospital, all proposals to extend intensive care facilities will need to be considered in the context of competing priorities in the 2018 Estimates process.
Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual. In relation to the particular query raised about access to surgery for an individual patient, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to you directly.