Reducing waiting time for patients for hospital operations and procedures is a key priority for Government. In this regard, the Government is committed to improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures.
Budget 2020 announced that the Government has further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) increasing from €75 million in 2019 to €100 million in 2020. The NTPF will work with the hospital system to provide additionality to improve access to inpatient/daycase treatment and with a particular focus on hospital outpatient services. In this regard, I would encourage all hospital groups and individual hospitals to engage with the NTPF to identify waiting list proposals this year.
In order to ensure the accuracy of waiting lists, good practice around the management of hospital waiting lists recommends periodic validation of waiting lists. Validation is the process whereby hospital administration contacts patients on waiting lists at pre-planned intervals during the year to ensure that patients are ready, willing, suitable and available to attend a hospital appointment or wish to be removed. For a number of years validation was conducted at individual hospital level in Ireland but in 2018, I approved the establishment of the National Centralised Validation Unit (NCVU) within the NTPF. The establishment of a centralised function has facilitated the introduction of a standardised approach to validation of waiting lists across all hospitals and across IPDC and OPD waiting lists.
Furthermore, the National Scheduled Care Audit and Quality Assurance Review Programme was established in the NTPF in 2014 in conjunction with the National Director of Acute Hospitals, Health Service Executive. The main role of the AQA Team is to audit hospital waiting lists, ensuring that waiting list data returned by public hospitals is in compliance with national data reporting requirements and hospital practices are in compliance with national waiting list protocols and that the waiting list data returned by public hospitals is accurate.
More broadly, my Department has placed a particular priority on performance improvement in scheduled and unscheduled care in order to improve access for patients. At the end of 2017, a Unit was established in my Department with a remit to work with Departmental colleagues, the HSE and NTPF to provide strategic direction and drive a joint approach to performance oversight and innovation in this area. The monitoring of waiting lists is a key activity of this Unit. This includes weekly analysis of waiting list figures provided by the NTPF and regular governance meetings with the HSE and the NTPF.