Improving access to hospital appointments and procedures is a key commitment of Government.
I hope to publish the Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 shortly. This plan which is a joint collaboration between my Department, the HSE and the NTPF, will set out commitments aimed at improving access for patients waiting for hospital operations or procedures, as well as patients waiting for a first Outpatient appointment.
The Plan will reflect HSE activity levels, in keeping with the National Service Plan, to reduce waiting times across specialties and improve access to appointments and treatment. It will also set out activity levels for the NTPF in line with their increased allocation of funding totalling €75 million in 2019.
South/South West Hospital Group advise that they continue to work with the hospitals in their group in improving patient access. At the end of December 2018, 81% of orthopaedic patients (381 patients) were waiting less than 9 months for their procedures, while 98% (462 patients) were waiting less than 18 months.
As a result of the continued engagement between South/South West Hospital Group and the NPTF, 250 Orthopaedic patients will be seen in extra Outpatient sessions in 2019. This is a pathway that proved very successful in 2018 where similar additional clinics were used to provide outpatient appointments to 170 of the longest waiting patients.
South/South West have also worked with the NTPF to outsource operations for orthopaedic patients to private providers, and 100 orthopaedic patients were treated through this pathway in 2018.
Other pathways to increase capacity include the use of a musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapist. This model of care functions to create more capacity for the Consultants to see the more clinically urgent patients.
Furthermore, the hospitals of South/South West continue to work with the NTPF National Validation office in ensuring that their waiting lists are correct with only patients still requiring their appointments being reported.