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Health | Hospital waiting list reduction programmes

To ask the Minister for Health the extent to which hospital waiting lists are being confronted with a view to a major reduction in such waiting lists and an improvement in the quality of life for those currently on such waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The 2022 Waiting List Action Plan was launched with €350m of funding on 25 February this year following extensive engagement between my Department, the HSE and the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF).

The Action Plan contains 45 actions to reduce and reform waiting lists across four main areas of work: delivering capacity, reforming scheduled care, enabling scheduled care reform, and addressing community care access and waiting lists. One of these actions is to develop and agree a multi-annual waiting list reduction plan to support the achievement of the Government maximum wait time targets.

Our immediate priority under the Action Plan during the first half of 2022 was to focus on identifying and funding additional activity to reduce the number of people waiting, with a particular focus on long waiters. The HSE and the NTPF are currently focused on delivering this additional activity.

Implementation of the Action Plan is being governed by a Waiting List Task Force, co-chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of Health and CEO of the HSE, who are meeting regularly.

The focus of the Task Force for the remainder of 2022, in addition to overseeing and driving additional activity, is now turning to delivery of multi-annual waiting list reduction plan that will provide direction over the coming years to implement longer-term reform measures. Such reform measures include modernising patient care pathways to bring care closer to the community and reduce the pressure on our hospitals, and greatly enhancing the availability and analysis of waiting list data and information.

The 2022 Waiting List Action Plan will both positively impact the numbers of people waiting in 2022, as well as bring about real and lasting change to our waiting lists in the future by being the first year of a comprehensive and strategic multi-annual waiting list reduction and reform programme.

However, it is recognised that waiting times for scheduled appointments and procedures have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The HSE has confirmed that patient safety remains at the centre of all hospital activity and elective care scheduling. To ensure services are provided in a safe, clinically-aligned and prioritised way, hospitals are following HSE clinical guidelines and protocols.

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