Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Ceisteanna (114)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

114. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Health if he will address the waiting time for public cataracts procedures; the way in which he plans to address this waiting time as an over reliance on the treatment purchase fund. [41349/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The Programme for Government commits to reducing waiting times for procedures in hospitals and has provided funding to the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) to deliver on this commitment. Budget 2019 announced that the Government had further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the NTPF increasing from €55 million in 2018 to €75 million in 2019.

The joint Department of Health, HSE, and NTPF Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 was published in March. Under the plan there has been a continued effort to improve patient access for certain high-volume procedures, including cataracts. The NTPF procures capacity for each of the procedures identified in the Action Plan, including cataract procedures, in both private hospitals and public hospitals. The Action Plan also strikes the appropriate balance between maximising the number of patients treated in both public and private capacity, as appropriate, and ensuring the best return for the taxpayer.

Cataracts were also one of the specialties targeted by the NTPF under the Inpatient Day Case Action Plan for 2018, and by end of August 2019, the number of people waiting nationally for a cataract procedure had almost halved, from 10,024 in July 2017 to 5,528. In this same period, there has also been a reduction of 88% in the number of patients waiting over 9 months for a cataract operation. Further details of the reduction in the number of people waiting, by time band, is provided below.

Furthermore, as part of the IPDC Action Plan 2018, a stand-alone high-volume consultant-led cataract theatre was opened by the University of Limerick Hospital Group in Nenagh Hospital, in November 2018. This initiative continues to have a positive impact in reducing waiting times for patients waiting for cataract procedures, especially in the mid-west. Given the central location of Nenagh Hospital it is envisaged that, in time, it has the potential to provide capacity for cataract surgery for patients on waiting lists in public hospitals in the surrounding geographical areas.

In addition, in line with the objectives of Sláintecare, I have asked the HSE and NTPF to work together this year with the objective of developing medium-long term improvement initiatives for patient access to hospital procedures. A Working Group comprised of representatives from the HSE, NTPF, and Departmental officials, has been established to examine ways of improving access for patients waiting for scheduled care. Part of this work includes examining initiatives which would move care to the most appropriate setting, and at the lowest level of complexity, such as providing ophthalmology services in the community.

The following table provides details of the national waiting list for cataract surgery at the end of August 2019.

Total

> 3 Mths

> 6 Mths

> 9 Mths

> 12 Mths

>18 Mths

End July 2017

10,024

7,967

6,060

4,371

2,784

629

End December 2018

6,440

3,607

1,426

554

276

107

End Aug 2019

5,528

3,173

1,510

527

201

62