Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Ceisteanna (86)

John Lahart


86. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Health the reason 6,251 children have been waiting for an outpatient consultation in the three Dublin children's hospitals since before 1 January 2017. [5248/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I am conscious that waiting times are often unacceptably long and of the burden that this places on patients and their families. Improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures is one of my top priorities and is a key commitment in the Programme for Government.

I hope to publish the joint Department of Health, HSE, NTPF Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 shortly. This 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.

A key element of this Plan is the stabilisation of the Outpatient Waiting List which remains a significant challenge. The HSE, in line with the National Service Plan 2019 will provide 3.3 million outpatient appointments, more than 1 million of which will be first outpatient appointments.

In 2019, the HSE will focus in particular on specialties with a high volume of referrals and large proportions of long-waiting patients including ENT and Dermatology. In addition, the NTPF, with an increased allocation of €75million in 2019, will fund an additional 40,000 first outpatient appointments through weekend and out of hour’s clinics and ‘see and treat’ clinics.

The NTPF will deliver this additional activity by working with hospital groups and individual hospitals as well as private health providers to maximise the number of patients treated in both a public and private capacity. In this context, in 2018 the NTPF approved 504 Outpatient appointments for Temple Street as part of an initiative to support implementation of an extended working day in the hospital. The NTPF have also met with Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) to review Outpatient proposals covering the specialties of Cardiology, Ophthalmology, and Dental Surgery.

The CHI advises that it has implemented a number of new and innovative initiatives to improve access to outpatient appointments for patients across a range of specialties including cardiology, dermatology, and orthopaedics. This includes additional clinics in ENT and dermatology, the appointment of additional staff in general paediatrics and ophthalmology, and the use of virtual assessment clinics for rheumatology.

In addition, the establishment of the Outpatient and Urgent Care Centre at Connolly Hospital in 2019 will result in 6,350 outpatient appointments being issued for the new facility next year, with projected full year outpatient attendance of 15,240 in subsequent years.