I propose to take Questions Nos. 469 to 471, inclusive, together.
The prevention and control of healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) and Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has been a significant patient safety and public health priority for my Department for numerous years.
In October 2017, with Minister Creed, I published Ireland's first National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, 2017-2020 (iNAP) and since publication, my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine and other organisations have been engaged in an intensive programme of work to implement the strategic objectives of the iNAP Plan.
In line with iNAP, in 2018 I dedicated additional funding of €2m for HCAIs/AMR measures within the health service and a further €5 million has been allocated in 2019. This additional funding supports a number of initiatives and capacity building across the public health system.
With regard to the use of diagnostic tools to tackle the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance, Strategic Objective 5 of iNAP specifically identifies as an action, the need for assessment of the cost and clinical effectiveness of rapid diagnostic tools.
In line with iNAP, HIQA was requested to undertake a health technology assessment (HTA) of near-patient testing to guide antimicrobial prescribing. In considering the scope of the HTA, antibiotic prescribing in community settings was identified as an area where there was potential to influence prescribing patterns using results of diagnostic testing.
Following a scoping review, HIQA identified that CRP point-of-care testing was the only test with evidence applicable to this scope and hence, was the subject of the HTA. The HTA focused on C-reactive protein (CRP) point-of-care testing for patients with symptoms of respiratory tract infection in the primary care setting. The HTA review and its findings relate to the clinical use of CRP point-of-care testing, the cost effectiveness, budgetary impact and the organisational issues associated with implementation.
In line with the advice of the HTA, I have now asked my Department to engage with the HSE regarding the establishment of a pilot project. This would allow for: evaluation of the CRP point-of-care testing in primary care settings; consideration of the sustainability of the benefits of testing; collection of data on costs; and examination of the organisational issues involved in implementing such a pilot project, specifically in the Irish healthcare context.