Health. Reilly strikes at waiting lists.

The Government has announced a new agency, the Special Delivery Unit, which aims to cut all hospital waiting lists.

James Reilly – Set to unveil waiting list plan

The SDU’s first priority will be to deal with emergency department overcrowding, then in-patient waiting lists,out patient times and access to diagnostics.

Health Minister Dr James Reilly has pledged to end the waiting list problem within three years but admitted that waiting lists could rise in the short term.

The Special Delivery Unit will be provided with weekly waiting list data and will visit hospitals that are not performing well to find out the reason.

An estimated 200,000 people are waiting to be seen at an outpatient clinic, having been referred by their family doctor for a check, with some waiting up to five years.

Along with the national outpatient waiting lists, over 26,000 adults and children are waiting for inpatient, or day case treatment.

It will take a ‘hands on’ approach, getting waiting list figures from every hospital on a weekly basis and it will visit hospitals that are failing to perform.

The SDU will be chaired by Dr Martin Connor, an expert who worked in the NHS in Britain and on waiting list reforms in northern Ireland.

His appointment was approved by the Cabinet this week.

As part of today’s overhaul, the role of the National Treatment Purchase Fund will change but it will not cease to function.

However, it is expected that hospitals will be instructed not to refer any more patients to the NTPF after July.

Meanwhile, The Irish Patients’ Association says it expects that the new agency will improve things for patients.

Irish Patients’ Association spokesman Stephen Mc Mahon has said that ‘a lot has to be proven by publishing the weekly statistics on hospital waiting lists.’
He continued, he hopes that the term Special Delivery Unit is not just another word for taskforce.

Stephen Mc Mahon has said that patients who have been given appointments under the National Treatment Purchase Fund after 1 July need to be told when they will get their treatment.

Since 2002, the NTPF has been paying for private treatment for public patients waiting over three months.

Cutting lists will in future be the responsibility of the new Special Delivery Unit which will have its own funding and this could mean the NTPF funding being cut.

The Department of Health has said that around 20,000 more treatments could be performed each year, with better management.

It is expected that around €29m of the National Treatment Purchase Fund budget of €85m will be moved to the new Special Delivery Unit.

Some of the €29m funding will go towards hospitals with the longest inpatient waiting lists and will also be spent on reducing emergency department overcrowding in the hospitals with biggest trolley waiting problems.

It is expected that hospitals will also be allowed to employ doctors to work out of hours to reduce patient waiting times.

Meanwhile, new figures from the HSE show that hospitals have overspent their budgets by over €74m up to the end of March, which is likely to put more pressure on waiting lists.

The problem of delays for outpatient appointments is revealed in a letter, sent to a family on 20 May, by Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin and seen by RTE News.

It says the young patient can not be given a firm appointment anytime in the future, as the consultant’s clinics are fully booked up.

The family have since secured a date for private care.