Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 to cut waiting times for treatment

The Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 aims that all clinically suitable patients waiting more than six months on ten high volume procedures, including cataracts, joint replacements, tonsils and angiograms would be offered treatment in 2019, writes Maureen Browne.

The Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019 is a joint Department of Health/HSE/NTPF plan.

The Plan, published by Health Minister, Simon Harris, said the HSE was to deliver 1.155 million elective hospital procedures and over one million new outpatient appointments this year, while the NTPF would deliver 25,000 Inpatient Day Case treatments, 5,000 Gastro Intestinal Scopes and 40,000 first Outpatient appointments, according to the Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019:

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In 2019, the Plan is to place a particular focus on ten high volume procedures, including cataracts, joint replacements, tonsils and angiograms.

The Department of Health said that through the combined activity of the HSE and the NTPF, (which has received a budget of €75m for the year),
projections were that for these procedures, all clinically suitable patients waiting more than six months would be offered treatment in 2019.

Improving access will remain a key priority in 2019, with funding to the NTPF increased to €75m.

Speaking as the plan was published, NTPF CEO Liam Sloyan said working together, the NPTF, HSE and the Department of Health achieved significant reductions in wait times for surgery in 2018. With increased funding in 2019, the NTPF was looking forward to building on this progress, while also increasing its focus on patients waiting for outpatient consultations”.

The National Director, Acute Operations, HSE, Ms. Angela Fitzgerald also welcomed the publication of the Scheduled Care Access Plan.

“The HSE welcomes the additional funding made available to the NTPF by Government in 2019 to support improved access to treatment for patients on waiting lists. This presents a significant opportunity to build on the progress already made in 2018. The HSE will continue to work in close collaboration with the NTPF and the Department of Health in 2019 to deliver on the Scheduled Care Access Plan and deliver initiatives that will support recovery from reduced activity in the early part of 2019.”

Under the Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019:

  • Improving access will remain a key priority in 2019, with funding to the NTPF increased to €75m.
  • The number of patients waiting for GI scopes is projected to fall from 18,847at the end of 2018 to under 16,500.
  • The number of patients waiting for a first Outpatient appointment will fall from over 516,000 at the end of 2018 to under 509,000.
  • A high level activity target from the HSE in line with the National Service Plan to deliver 1.155 million hospital operations and procedures at a value of €1.4 bn in 2019.
  • Detailed plans from the NTPF to fund 25,000 hospital operations and procedures at a total cost of €58 million; 5,000 Gastro Intestinal Scopes at a cost of €5 million; and 40,000 outpatient first appointments at a cost of €6m.
  • Projections by year end to reduce the overall number of patients on the waiting list for hospital operations and procedures (excluding GI scopes) from just over 70,200 in Dec 2018 to under 60,000;
  • Within this overall reduction.
    – The number of patients waiting longer than three months would reduce from 40,200 at the end of 2018 to 31,000.
    – The number of patients waiting longer than nine months would reduce from 14,900 at the end of 2018 to 10,000.
  • It is also projected that for ten identified high volume procedures (Cataracts; Joint Replacements; Varicose Veins; Tonsillectomies; Cystoscopies; Angiograms; Lesions; Laparoscopic Cholecystectomies; Septoplasties; Dental/Maxillofacial Surgery), all clinically suitable patients waiting more than six months would be offered treatment in 2019.
  • A process to identify, develop treatment plans and, where possible, offer treatments, from within existing HSE and NTPF resources for long waiters not suitable for NTPF funded treatment would be developed between the NTPF and the HSE.
  • All clinically suitable patients waiting over nine months for a GI scope would be offered treatment.

The Department said a key element of this year’s Plan was the stabilisation of the Outpatient Waiting List. It said access to outpatient services remained a significant challenge. In 2019, over 3.3 million patients would attend a HSE outpatient clinic while the NTPF would fund an additional 40,000 first outpatient appointments.

NTPF activity will aim to remove over 100,000 patients off our Hospital Waiting Lists through a combination of arranging treatments for 70,000 patients and through the activity of the Central Validation Unit.”

“Furthermore, through the work of the NTPF Centralised Validation Unit to assess the true demand for inpatient, day case and outpatient service it is projected that an additional 30,000 patients will be taken off the Waiting Lists in 2019.

“Overall, in 2019, NTPF activity will aim to remove over 100,000 patients off our Hospital Waiting Lists through a combination of arranging treatments for 70,000 patients and through the activity of the Central Validation Unit.”

Health Minister, Simon Harris said, “Last year’s performance also brought significant progress in meeting the Sláintecare recommendation that patients should wait no longer than 12 weeks for an inpatient procedure. At the end of December 2018 the number of patients waiting longer than three months had fallen to 40,200 from just under 58,000 in July 2017, a decrease of 31%.

“However, it must be acknowledged that due to a number of factors, planned activity for January and February this year is behind target and waiting lists are higher than projected in the plan.

“The challenge now will be to catch up on lost activity and meet the targets set out in the plan. The HSE and the NTPF are fully committed to meeting these targets and I look forward to progress in this regard. Irish patients want and deserve timely access to hospital procedures and appointments.”