I propose to take Questions Nos. 1780, 1784, 1785, 1789 and 1790 together.
A clear governance and accountability framework was identified as a key building block of Sláintecare by the Committee on the Future of Healthcare. As part of its recommendations in this area, the Committee called for the HSE to become a more strategic and patient-focused ‘national centre’ carrying out national level functions, and the establishment of regional bodies with responsibility for the planning and delivery of integrated care at a regional level.
In time, the regional organisations will have a “one budget, one system” approach with improved accountability and governance and equitable resource allocation. As outlined in the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy, regions will be funded using population-based resource allocation models and will be accountable for achieving population health outcomes within this funding.
Reducing waiting times across the country for hospital appointments and procedures is a key commitment of Government. South/South West Hospital Group has advised my Department that University Hospital Waterford (UHW) 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 advises 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.
Within 12 months, I intend to bring proposals to the Government outlining the roles and responsibilities of the new regions. The development process of these proposals will take account of issues such as waiting list and workforce planning. As I stated last week, I envisage that some elements of workforce planning will be devolved to regional organisations and this will be a key consideration during the development of the detailed proposals.