I am conscious that waiting times are often unacceptably long and of the burden that this places on patients and their families. In this regard I am committed to improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures carried out in the Ophthalmology specialty and is one of the targeted high-volume procedures of the Scheduled Care Access Plan for both 2018 and 2019.
Waiting List figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) for the end of February show the total number of patients waiting for a cataract procedure fell from 10,024 in July 2017 to under 6,300, a reduction of almost 38%.
The numbers waiting more than 3 months halved in the same period, down from 8,000 to just under 4,000, while those waiting more than 9 months fell from 4,371 to 536, a reduction of 88%.
Last year also saw the establishment of a dedicated Cataract Centre at Nenagh Hospital. This is a stand-alone high-volume consultant-led cataract theatre facility which, at full capacity, will provide a 5-day service and is expected to deliver approximately 2,000 cataract procedures in 2019.
Budget 2019 announced that the Government had further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the NTPF increasing from €55 million in 2018 to €75 million in 2019.
The joint Department of Health/HSE/NTPF Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 was published in March and sets out measures to improve care for patients waiting for scheduled care in 2019 by reducing waiting times for inpatient, day case and outpatient appointments. The plan places a strong focus on ten high-volume procedures, including cataracts. When combined with HSE activity it is projected that the NTPF will be in a position to offer treatment to all clinically suitable patients waiting more than 6 months for one of these procedures.
In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.