Reducing waiting time for patients for hospital appointments and procedures is a key priority for Government. Budget 2019 announced that the Government has further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (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 recently and sets out measures to improve care for patients waiting for scheduled care in 2019 by reducing waiting times for inpatient/day case treatment and outpatient appointments. Under the Plan the HSE, in line with the National Service Plan, will aim to deliver 1.155 million elective inpatient and day case discharges, as well as 3.3 million outpatient appointments, of which approximately 1 million will be first appointments.
While the meeting of short-term targets is always welcome, more can be achieved and in this regard the HSE, Department of Health and NTPF, under the Access Plan, will work together with the objective of developing medium-long term improvement initiatives for patient access to hospital procedures. This will include moving care to more appropriate settings and providing care at the lowest level of complexity such as providing ophthalmology in the community; maximising the use of Advanced Nurse Practitioner led clinics. Issues relating to gynaecology waiting lists will be examined as part of this process.
The NTPF advise that the nature of outpatient waiting lists is such that they capture the numbers awaiting outpatient appointments by specialty, but cannot be used to determine medical diagnosis.
The NTPF further advise that they are unable to provide specific waiting times for inpatient/daycase "gynaecological services for investigation of ovarian cysts", as the question does not relate to a specific procedure used specifically to investigate ovarian cysts. However, the NTPF have provided my Department with data on Laparoscopy, which is a procedure which can be used for investigation of ovarian cysts. It should be noted that Laparoscopy can be used for a variety of medical investigations, and is not limited to the investigation of ovarian cysts alone.
The total number of patients waiting for Laparoscopy in hospitals in the D2, D4, D6, and D8 area is 16. This number can be broken down as follows:
St James Hospital – 14
Small Volume Hospitals – 2*
*To preserve patient confidentiality, where there are <5 patients waiting for a procedure, the number has been aggregated under 'Small Volume Hospitals'.