Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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825. To ask the Minister for Health the reason a person (details supplied) has had an operation cancelled; the reason they cannot have a 45 minute outpatient procedure carried out that will potentially save their sight; the current waiting list for this type of operation; and the length of time this person will have to wait for this sight saving operation. [7042/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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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 the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) and made considerable improvements to improve access for patients waiting for high volume 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 improved and at the end of April 2020, they stood at 5,831, a reduction of 42%. In the same period the number of patients waiting over 9 months for a cataract procedure fell by 83% from 4,249 to 705. The ophthalmology Inpatient/Daycase and Outpatient waiting lists, as well as the cataract waiting list for end April 2020, are provided for the Deputy below.

In this context it should be noted that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic the HSE had to take measures to defer all non-urgent elective scheduled care activity, including outpatient clinics. This was to ensure patient safety and that all appropriate resources were made available for COVID-19 related activity and time-critical essential work. This decision was in line with the advice issued by the World Health Organisation, the measures set out in the Government’s Action Plan in Response to COVID-19 and the recommendation of NPHET. The NPHET has now recommended that steps be taken to resume non-urgent scheduled care in the context of the safe care guidelines set out by its Expert Advisory Group.

My Department, the HSE and the NTPF are currently working together to estimate the impact of COVID-19 on Scheduled Care waiting lists, in order to be prepared to address any backlog or pent up demand. My Department continues to ensure that the resources available throughout our health system are best utilised at this unique and challenging time. 

Under the Health Act 2004, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is required to manage and deliver, or arrange to be delivered on its behalf, health and personal social services. Section 6 of the HSE Governance Act 2013 bars the Minister for Health from directing the HSE to provide a treatment or a personal service to any individual or to confer eligibility on any individual.

The National Waiting List Management Policy, a standardised approach to managing scheduled care treatment for in-patient, day case and planned procedures, since January 2014, has been developed to ensure that all administrative, managerial and clinical staff follow an agreed national minimum standard for the management and administration of waiting lists for scheduled care. This policy, which has been adopted by the HSE, sets out the processes that hospitals are to implement to manage waiting lists.

In relation to the treatment for the person concerned, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

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