On your Trolley

Today’s Daily Mail is reporting a that yesterday recorded 400 people on trolleys in hospitals around the country. The following are some points to note:

As promised in the Programme for Government significant progress has been made by the Special Delivery Unit in reducing waiting lists. Nevertheless, as has previously been said by the Minister for Health, it is important to remember that the progress made in 2012 does not mean the problem is solved, and 2013 will of course be extremely challenging.

There has been a seasonal spike in the numbers waiting beyond nine months since the start of this year as is clear from the figures published by the NTPF. The most recent data on the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) website show 2,141 people waiting longer than nine months.

It is important to stress that this spike in the figures was expected, as this time of year brings severe pressures on ED which impact on waiting times.

As winter pressures in Emergency Departments ease, the SDU will work towards re-balancing scheduled care to maintain the improvements seen in 2012, and to achieve the new 2013 target that no adult should be waiting more than 8 months for in patient and day case surgery.

Despite the expected pressures, performance remains encouraging against the 2013 targets set out in the HSE Service Plan of: – 8 months for adult inpatient or daycase treatments – 20 weeks for paediatric inpatient or daycase treatments – 13 weeks for routine endoscopy.

While figures are up as compared with December 2012, they remain significantly down on the equivalent period last year. On 7 March there were 4,161 adults waiting longer than 8 months for inpatient or daycase treatment – this is down 23% on the equivalent period in 2012. There were 552 children waiting longer than 20 weeks for inpatient or daycase treatment on 7 March – this is down 64% on the equivalent period last year.

There were 871 people waiting longer than 13 weeks for routine endoscopy on 7 March – down 84% on the equivalent period last year. Over time, the SDU will work towards creating a system that balances scheduled care and unscheduled care access in a planned and managed way.

As underlined in Future Health, this Government remains determined to build on the success already achieved by the Special Delivery Unit in delivering faster, more equitable access to hospital services.

It should be noted that the General Secretary of the INMO, Liam Doran, stresses the importance of the SDU in today’s Daily Mail saying that he shudders to think what the trolley figures would be like without the it.