The Government is committed to improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures. The number of patients waiting for an Inpatient or Day case procedure fell by 18% from July 2017 to the end of December 2018 while the number of patients waiting more than 3 months fell by more than 17,700, or 31% in the same period .
The Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 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.
As a result of on-going investment and successive waiting list initiatives, a reduction across a wide range of specialties has been recorded, including for pain relief, neurology and rheumatology. More specifically in June 2019 compared to July 2017, there has been a 4% reduction in the number of patients on the IPDC waiting list for rheumatology, an 11% reduction in the number of patients on the neurology waiting list, and a 15% reduction in the number of patients on the pain relief waiting list.
The NTPF advise that over recent months they have placed a particular focus on engaging with hospital groups and individual hospitals to identify outpatient waiting list proposals. The NTPF continues to welcome proposals from all acute hospitals for initiatives to improve access for patients awaiting outpatient appointments.
In terms of MRI waiting lists, the HSE advise that a pilot project was commenced in 2016 by the HSE Acute Hospitals Division to progress the collection of national radiology waiting list data. The project has been supported by the Radiology Clinical Care Programme and has involved key stakeholders across the system including the National NIMIS Team, Hospital Groups, and the support of the NTPF for data collection and data management expertise. At present, data is collected quarterly for MRI, CT and Ultrasound.
The Sláintecare Action Plan 2019 which was published by my Department, includes a specific work stream on Access and Waiting Lists. Sláintecare emphasises the need to invest in increased capacity while also shifting the balance of care from hospitals to community services for better health outcomes and a more sustainable health service. In addition, many of the other service reforms and enhancements included in Sláintecare will support timely access to care for patients in the coming years.