The development of the Unit is a key part of my plans to radically reform the health system in Ireland. In 2011 I identified two key priorities for the SDU, namely addressing trolley waiting times and reducing the maximum waiting time for elective surgery. I am happy to say that the SDU has delivered improvements on both objectives.
At that time I instructed all hospitals to ensure that they had no patients waiting more than 12 months for inpatient or day case treatment by the end of 2011. All except 2 hospitals achieved this target for their patients. In order to achieve this, the NTPF supported the treatment of 1,159 cases in the later half of the year. Over 60% of these cases were supported within public hospitals.
This year I have set a target that, by year end, no adult will be waiting longer than 9 months and no child longer than 20 weeks for in-patient or day case treatment. Also no person should be waiting longer than 13 weeks for a routine GI endoscopy. Currently the NTPF/SDU is intensely engaged with public hospitals supporting their planning processes that will underpin the delivery of these targets.
The NTPF has not been abolished. In July 2011 I announced changes to the remit of the NTPF — namely its role would be changed to support the mission of the SDU. The NTPF is now fully aligned with the SDU and is targeting waiting lists strategically and incentivising hospitals to manage their waiting times proactively. The NTPF capability is a core part of the SDU's performance improvement role in holding public hospitals to account.
There are a number of initiatives which will contribute to the overall improvement of hospital services in Ireland. The organisation of hospital services nationally, regionally and locally will be informed by the HSE's Clinical Programmes, which have been developed and implemented by the HSE, and by the work on the framework for the development of smaller hospitals. These inter-related programmes aim to improve service quality, effectiveness and patient access and to ensure that patient care is provided in the service setting most appropriate to individuals' needs.
The introduction of hospital groups will provide further opportunities for inter site cooperation. Smaller hospitals can assist larger hospitals in the group by taking on more elective work.
I can assure the Deputy that I am keenly aware of the length of the waiting lists and the continued reduction of these waiting lists is a key priority for me and my Department.