Tuesday, 7 December 2021
Department of Health
Hospital Waiting Lists
576. To ask the Minister for Health the number of children currently on a suspended inpatient list for scoliosis surgery across all hospitals; the time suspended; the number of children waiting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [60261/21]
577. To ask the Minister for Health if there are plans to outsource scoliosis surgery for children; if there are plans to increase funding for hospitals to carry out this procedure; his views on the waiting times for scoliosis surgery; the number of children waiting; the plans to ensure children's safety and their right to access the best attainable healthcare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [60262/21]
I acknowledge that waiting times for many hospital procedures and appointments are unacceptably long. It is of particular regret that children can experience long waiting times for orthopaedic treatment, especially for time sensitive procedures, and I remain acutely aware of the impact that this has on children and their families.
As part of Children’s Health Ireland’s (CHI) paediatric orthopaedic service, most scoliosis cases are treated at Crumlin and Temple Street, with Crumlin providing specialised multi-disciplinary treatment for the most complex patients. The National Orthopaedic Hospital at Cappagh provides additional capacity for the treatment of less complex orthopaedic patients, including routine scoliosis procedures. By using the capacity provided by Cappagh, CHI can free up space in order that complex orthopaedic procedures, including scoliosis spinal fusions, can be carried out centrally at CHI sites.
More specifically, additional theatre capacity at the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh commenced on the 26 April 2021 for daycase surgery. CHI has advised the Department of Health that this should result in a positive impact in reducing long waiting times for general orthopaedics, in addition to consequential capacity gains for scoliosis patients. In 2022 CHI is planning to undertake a range of inpatient, daycase and outpatient orthopaedic appointments in Cappagh.
In 2018 Children’s Health Ireland was provided with an additional €9 million in funding to address paediatric orthopaedic waiting lists, including the provision of scoliosis services. This funding is recurring and has been provided in the base HSE allocation each year since 2018. The additional funding supported the recruitment of approximately 60 WTEs in 2018 and 2019 to enable the expansion of paediatric orthopaedic services.
Funding proposals submitted to the HSE by Children’s Health Ireland for increased investment in paediatric orthopaedic services in 2022 will be decided as part of the finalisation of the Access to Care fund. In addition the HSE has advised my Department that a proposal to fund an additional theatre at Temple Street is currently progressing through the normal HSE capital approval process. Improving access to scheduled care capacity remains a priority for me and my Department as we work to finalise next years’ Access to Care fund.
Children’s Health Ireland has advised that as of end October 2021, there were 123 patients on the spinal fusion waiting list (excluding suspensions), an increase of 3 patients compared to the end of October 2020. There were 67 patients on the waiting list for other spinal procedures (excluding suspensions), which is decrease of 8 patients compared with the end of October 2020. As at the end of October, 295 spinal surgeries had been carried out. This is compared to 313 by the end of October 2019, and to 255 spinal surgeries that had been carried out by the same period last year.
In relation to outsourcing scoliosis procedures to other countries, Children’s Health Ireland has advised my Department that recent experience has demonstrated that previous strategies, which looked at outsourcing spinal patients to external providers in the UK and Europe, had not been overly successful as spinal patients often require additional follow up and the management of post-operative complications. These are also compounded for patients by the need to travel overseas especially now during COVID-19. However, the HSE does have a procurement framework in place seeking additional private sector capacity, including for patients with scoliosis.
Improving waiting times for hospital appointments and procedures remains a commitment of this Government. For 2022 an additional allocation of €250 million, comprised of €200 million to the HSE and €50 million to the National Treatment Purchase Fund has been provided in respect of work to reduce hospital and community waiting lists. The €250 million will be used to fund additional activity in both the public and private sectors. The €50 million additional funding provided to the NTPF brings its total allocation for 2022 to €150 million, and as a consequence there will be a budget of €350 million available to support vital initiatives to improve access to acute hospitals and community health services.
In addition, my Department, the HSE and the NTPF are working on a Multi Annual Waiting List Plan to bring waiting lists in line with Sláintecare targets over the coming years. This process will be overseen by a Ministerial Taskforce, chaired by the Secretary General of my Department and includes representatives from the HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund. The plan will be informed by the lessons learned from the successful Vaccine Taskforce.
579. To ask the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to the current waiting time for the National Gender Clinic, which stands at over two years from the initial referral; his views on the adequacy of this timeframe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [60271/21]