I propose to take Questions Nos. 484, 485 and 487 together.
Reducing waiting time for patients for hospital operations and procedures is a key priority for Government. Last year saw considerable improvement in the number of patients waiting for procedures. As a result of increased activity and the ongoing collaboration between the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), the number of patients waiting for an Inpatient or Day case procedure fell to 70,204 in December 2018, from a peak of 86,100 in July 2017. This represents a reduction of over 18% in the overall number of patients waiting for a procedure. The number of patients waiting more than 3 months fell by more than 17,700, or 31% in the same period from July 2017 to the end of December 2018.
Budget 2019 announced that the Government had further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund increasing from €55 million in 2018 to €75 million in 2019. The joint Department of Health, HSE, and NTPF Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 was published in March. Under the Plan the HSE, in line with the National Service Plan, will deliver 1.155 million elective inpatient and day case discharges at a value of €1.4 billion in 2019.
As a result of continued investment and the work undertaken as part of the Scheduled Care Access Plan, the number of patients waiting for cataract procedures has fallen by 44% from a high of 10,024 in July 2017 to 5,655 at the end of May 2019. For the same period the number of patients waiting more than 9 months has fallen by 89% from 4,371 to 481. The numbers waiting for hip and knee replacements has also reduced by 18%, while the number of patients waiting longer than 9 months has fallen by 69% from 1,019 in July 2019, to 319 at the end of May 2019.
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; and physiotherapists to manage orthopaedic clinics.
The specific data requested by the deputy is outlined in the attached documents.