Reducing waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures is a key commitment of government. While the last 18 months have seen considerable progress in the reduction of waiting times for Inpatient and Daycase treatments, I am conscious that the Outpatient Waiting List remains a significant challenge as demand for acute hospital services continues to grow.
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 the National Treatment Purchase Fund Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 was published in March. 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 at a value of €1.4 billion in 2019, while the NTPF will provide additionality through the provision of 25,000 IPDC appointments, 5,000 GI scopes, and 40,000 outpatient appointments.
South/South West Hospital Group has advised my Department that University Hospital Waterford is focused on the reduction of waiting lists, and is actively working with the NTPF to engage in initiatives to reduce outpatient waiting times. To date this year the NTPF has approved an additional 3,600 outpatient appointments for University Hospital Waterford. These outpatient initiatives are focused on those specialties that have a number of long-waiting patients.
For example, an additional ENT Consultant is focusing on long waiting patients, while UHW Audiology Department is working with an external provider to schedule hearing test assessments for long waiters. Furthermore consultant led Virtual ENT clinics are also being set up.
For the specialty of Urology, a Locum Consultant Urologist has been appointed to focus on the longest waiting patients. An additional clinic has been established to schedule long-waiting patients, and from mid-July an additional urology clinic will also commence as part of the wider South South-West Hospital Group plans in South Tipperary General Hospital.
UHW further advise that to address the Rheumatology outpatient waiting list, extra time slots have been made available for the longest waiting patients at external clinics, while an out of hours clinic has also been set up to deal with other long waiting patients.
In addition to these initiatives, the University Hospital Waterford Central Appointments Office has recently taken over the management of the Outpatient Waiting List for Gastro-Enterology and Paediatrics. University Hospital Waterford has advised that it remains committed to working in collaboration with South South-West Hospital Group, and the NTPF, on waiting list initiative supports.