Thursday, 23 June 2022
Department of Health
Hospital Waiting Lists
404. To ask the Minister for Health further to Parliamentary Question No. 1814 of 14 June 2022, the breakdown of validation figures by month and by category; the processes used in and process of validation; the categorisations used for recording purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33335/22]
In order to ensure the accuracy of waiting lists, good practice around the management of hospital waiting lists recommends periodic administrative validation. Validation is the process whereby hospitals contact patients on waiting lists in writing at pre-planned intervals during the year to ensure that patients are ready, willing, suitable and available to attend for hospital care or wish to be removed from the waiting list. For a number of years validation was conducted at individual hospital level in Ireland but in September 2018 the Minister for Health approved the establishment of the validation function within the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). The establishment of a centralised function has facilitated the introduction of a standardised approach to validation of waiting lists across hospitals and across Inpatient and Day Case (IPDC) and Outpatient (OPD) waiting lists.
The NTPF have advised my Department that the following cohorts of patients are included in the Validation Programme for 2022:
- Active patients on Inpatient, Daycase (IPDC), GI Scope and Outpatient (OP) waiting lists over 6 months without a TCI or an appointment date.
- Active patients on Inpatient, Daycase, GI scope and Outpatient waiting lists over 6 months with a TCI or appointment date outside the six week timeframe from the date of the report.
- Patients who fail to respond to Outpatient Commissioning Offer letters.
In addition, the NTPF have advised that updated validation guidance was issued to hospitals to include patients in excess of 3 months in validation programmes where appropriate.
The process, developed by the NTPF, HSE, and my Department, in consultation with stakeholders and experts, involves patients receiving a letter from their hospital, asking them to return the letter in the freepost envelope supplied or reply online, indicating whether they still require their procedure/appointment.
Those patients who still require a procedure or appointment will remain on the waiting list. Those who respond that they no longer require the procedure will be removed from the waiting list in accordance with the National Inpatient, Day Case, Planned Procedure (IDPP) Protocol 2017 and the National Outpatient Waiting List Management Protocol 2022. Where no response is received within two weeks, a reminder letter is sent and if there is no response within a further two weeks, the patient and the patient’s GP will receive a letter advising that the patient has been removed from the waiting list. If the patient or GP considers the procedure or appointment is still required, the patient will be reinstated, maintaining their original place on the list.
In an effort to improve efficiencies in the national validation process, and provide a convenient, secure response option for patients participating in validation, the NTPF developed and rolled out an additional Patient Online Automated Response option (POLAR). Patients can now go online via POLAR and provide up to date information in relation to their waiting list status; alternatively, they can still use the pre-paid envelope provided
In terms of categorisation used for recording purposes, validation activity and statistics are recorded by the NTPF and shared to my Department as per the cohorts of patients validated, with patients listed based on the type of waiting lists on which they sit (IPDC/OPD). For the purposes of responding to Parliamentary Question No.1814 of 14 June 2022, the NTPF provided an annual and year-to-date breakdown of validation by hospital and by IPDC/OPD waiting list. The validation process is carried out through cycles where the NTPF works with individual hospitals, via specified waiting lists, in order to identify appropriate patient cohorts to validate, generate reports, contact patients, allow for response time, response collation, and patient removal. As such a breakdown of validation figures by hospital each month does not reflect the appropriate activity and removal rates of the validation cycle. In addition, to generate such a report would require significant manual intervention as it does not correlate with how the validation process operates in practice.