Reducing waiting times for patients is one of the Government's key priorities. In addition, all patients are prioritised according to clinical need.
The HSE Outpatient Waiting List Action Plan 2017 contained a specific target to reduce by 50% the number of patients who would be waiting 15 months or more for outpatient appointments by the end of October 2017. The Plan aimed to remove over 95,000 patients from the Outpatient Waiting List. This target was met with almost 100,000 patients coming off the Waiting List by the week ending 3 November.
Notwithstanding, the Outpatient Waiting List remains a significant challenge to be addressed in 2018. Outpatient activity has increased year-on-year, while the gap between referrals and appointment activity continues to widen, with 2017 data from the HSE indicating a gap of over 1,200 patients per week. Moreover, almost half a million (479,000) outpatients did not attend their outpatient appointment last year. This is an area that needs to be tackled.
Recent experience in relation to waiting list initiatives, including outsourcing, suggests that there are opportunities for further improvements and a number of steps including the commencement of a national waiting list validation project by the HSE, are being taken to ensure the lists are accurate. These efforts are to intensify in the coming months. My Department has also requested the HSE to develop an Outpatient Waiting List Action Plan for 2018, building on progress achieved last year.
In relation to the particular query raised, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.