Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Health
Hospital Waiting Lists
Question 511: To ask the Minister for Health the way a person will contact the special delivery unit if they have been waiting more than three months for an in-patient procedure; if he will guarantee that this new unit will deal as quickly and as effectively as the National Treatment Purchase Fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17464/11]
I announced the establishment of the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) on 1 June. This has been one of my key priorities since becoming Minister for Health. The SDU is a key part of the Government's plans to radically reform the health system in Ireland, with the ultimate goal of introducing a system of Universal Health Insurance (UHI).
I have appointed Dr. Martin Connor as the Special Advisor on the SDU. Dr. Connor is an international expert, with a proven track record in health service transformation. He has extensive experience in the NHS and led a similar initiative in Northern Ireland with considerable success. His principal task will be to build up the SDU and to prepare proposals for me on how best it can be placed on a permanent footing within the next six months. I will be meeting Dr Connor this week to review his progress to date.
The SDU will work to unblock access to acute services by dramatically improving the flow of patients through the system, and by streamlining waiting lists, including referrals from GPs. The SDU will work closely with the HSE, building on initiatives already underway including the clinical programmes.
The SDU's priorities will encompass:
· Emergency Departments – waiting times for admission have been unacceptably high in a number of hospitals, often breaching the current 6-hour maximum waiting time target.
· In-patient waiting times – the trend has been upwards recently, despite the work of the NTPF.
· Out-patient waiting times – the time from GP referral to an appointment with a consultant is unacceptably long in many specialties.
· Access to diagnostics – this forms an essential part of the patient journey for all of the areas of access above.
Its success will allow for an alteration in the current role of the NTPF. Its resources will be re-focused to align closely with the work of the SDU, and crucially will allow for a progressive improvement in the performance of the nation's hospitals. For the moment the NTPF will continue to operate as normal, accepting applications from persons who have been waiting for over three months for treatment. An immediate priority for the SDU will be to ensure that waiting lists for inpatient services are managed properly and that hospitals take responsibility for managing patient flows. I cannot accept a position where some hospitals allow small numbers of patients to wait more than a year for their procedures. The NTPF has welcomed the new initiative and has confirmed it will work proactively with the Unit to achieve the best possible result for patients.