I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 198 together.
Reducing waiting time for patients for hospital operations and procedures is a key priority for Government. In recent years, my Department has worked with the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) and made considerable improvements to access for patients waiting for high volume procedures and life limiting procedures including cataracts.
At the end of July 2017, the number of people waiting for a cataract procedure was 10,024. Since then the numbers waiting have consistently improved and at the end of October 2019 they stand at 4,480. Of these, 494 patients are waiting over 9 months which represents a reduction of 90% when compared to July 2017, when the number waiting over 9 months stood at 4,371.
More broadly, Budget 2020 announced that the Government has further increased investment in tackling waiting lists, with funding to the NTPF increasing from €75 million in 2019 to €100 million in 2019. The year-on-year increase in funding to the NTPF since Budget 2017 reflect this Government’s priority to improve waiting times for patients to access hospital treatment. The Department of Health is working with the HSE and the NTPF to develop the Scheduled Care Access Plan 2020, which will include ophthalmology services.
In relation to the specific matter raised by the Deputy, the HSE National Clinical Programme for Ophthalmology has advised that there is no specific medically advised waiting time for cataract surgery. A patient with a cataract is advised to have it removed when it significantly impacts on their activities of daily living and this can vary from patient to patient. Once a patient’s vision drops to below 6/12 in the better eye, they are advised to have the cataract removed if they wish to continue driving.
The attached table provides a breakdown of the number of people awaiting cataract surgery by time band nationally by hospital at the end of October 2019.