Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Department of Health and Children
Question 614: To ask the Minister for Health and Children the details of the revised programme for Government commitment to implement reforms to hospice and palliative care, in line with international best practice; if she will arrange for the Health Service Executive to collect national data on waiting times for hospice services as part of this reform; if she will ensure that the HSE national action plan for palliative care services 2009 to 2013 will be published and that funding will be ring-fenced for its implementation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39120/09]
Áine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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Government policy is to develop and improve health services in all regions of the country and to ensure quality and patient safety. An important function of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is the setting of standards on safety and quality and to monitor compliance on the part of the HSE and service providers with these standards in an open and transparent way. The Health Information and Quality Authority is currently developing National Standards for Quality and Safety, linked to their work on safety, quality and excellence in service provision. They will continue to work with service providers to ensure the provision of the highest standard of service possible including Hospice and Palliative Care. The implementation of the Revised Programme for Government commitment in relation to reforms to hospice and palliative care, is ongoing. The Health Service Executive has advised my Department that at present no waiting lists are kept in respect of hospice services. Most patients are seen within 7 days depending on urgency of service required.
On the matter of the collection of national data on waiting lists for Hospice services the Health Service Executive has recently commissioned a subgroup to begin implementation of the Minimum Data Set for Palliative Care. Currently this group is arranging to collect data in relation to Specialist In-patient Units and Home Care services. The HSE has stated that this data should be available towards the end of the year. During 2010, they intend to roll out the Minimum Data Set in relation to Palliative Care Services available in Acute Hospitals and Day Care. When this process is complete the HSE should be in a position to extrapolate detailed data in relation to waiting times where they exist for palliative care services. The HSE are continuing to collect monthly activity data for palliative care services.
The 'Medium Term Strategy for the Development of Palliative Care Services' to which the Deputy refers was published by the Health Service Executive in June and is available on the Health Service Executive Website. This framework sets national priorities which have been agreed by all stakeholders based on solid needs analysis to ensure that services do not develop in an ad-hoc fashion and that any developments proposed in future reflect areas of greatest need. This methodology ensures an equitable approach to service provision as well as consistency in inputs such as pay and non-pay costs as well as levels of staff. The national priorities reflect the gaps that currently exist in particular areas and services and the prioritisation reflects the largest gaps. When this work was initiated its purpose was to provide a sound planning framework for resource utilisation. It was anticipated that funding for the agreed priorities might be achieved through a combination of reorientation and reconfiguration of existing resources and the identification of additional resource requirements when further funding might come on-stream.
At a meeting following the completion of the report, chaired by the Department of Health and Children and at which the Irish Hospice Foundation, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Association of Palliative Care as well as the Health Service Executive were represented, it was agreed that the priorities identified in the Framework should be carried out in the context of reconfiguration and re-allocation of existing resources/services; increasing and developing capacity within existing resources, developing skills in community care and care of the elderly settings specifically in relation to palliative care services and taking the opportunity afforded by integration to identify ways of enabling the delivery of these agreed national priorities. However all developments are subject to current budget and economic considerations.