Minister for Health launches €350 million 2022 Waiting List Action Plan

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Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly has launched the 2022 Waiting List Action Plan, which he says is the first year of a multi-annual reform programme to stabilise and reduce waiting lists and waiting times for elective care in Ireland, bringing about significant and lasting change in waiting list numbers.

“Projections for 2022 show that over 1.5 million patients will be added to active waiting lists this year,” said the Department of Health.  

“A lot of people very understandably stayed away from the health service during the pandemic and did not come forward for the care they needed. Others were unable to access non-urgent care. As these people come forward it will place huge additional demand on our health service.”  

The Department said the plan detailed how the Department, the HSE and the NTPF intended to ensure that an even higher number, 1.7 million, were treated and removed from waiting lists. This would bring our waiting list figures to the lowest number in the past five years.  

“This ambitious Plan identifies 45 actions as part of a comprehensive twin-track approach of investment to reduce and reform waiting lists. Targeted investment aims to get many more people treated as quickly as possible. At the same time, reforming and investing in our public health service will eradicate the gap between demand and permanent capacity by addressing long-term reforms like improving patient pathways of care, enhancing data collection and information sharing, and revising waiting-list management protocols.

The Minister said, “This Plan allocates €350 million to the HSE and NTPF to reduce waiting lists by 18 percent this year which will bring the number of people waiting to their lowest point in five years. 

“While this Plan focuses on significant numbers and targets, it is fundamentally about ensuring people receive the right care in the right place, at the right time – reforming our health service through the fundamental principles of Sláintecare.”

There will be a particular focus on 15 high volume inpatient day case procedures so that every person waiting for over six months who is clinically ready will receive an offer of treatment. These are:

  • Cataracts.
  • Cystoscopies.
  • Hip replacements.
  • Knee replacements.
  • Skin lesions (General Surgery and Plastic Surgery).
  • Varicose Veins.
  • Angiograms.
  • Tonsillectomies.
  • Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy.
  • Septoplasties.
  • Dental.
  • Hysteroscopy.
  • Laparoscopy (Gynaecology).
  • Total abdominal Hysterectomy.
  • Inguinal Hernia Repair.

The 2022 Waiting List Action Plan has 45 actions across four areas:

  1. Delivering Capacity in 2022: Immediate delivery of additional activity within the private and public system to address the current waiting list backlog.  
  2. Reforming Scheduled Care: Medium-to-longer term reform measures to fundamentally resolve underlying barriers to the timely delivery of care. This includes improving patient pathways of care, with some 37 priority scheduled care pathways across 16 specialties on track for implementation in 2022. These will ensure the availability of more timely access to care for people in settings closer to their communities and homes. 
  3. Enabling Scheduled Care Reform: Key process/policy and technology/data enablers critical to support the whole-of-system reform required to improve access to scheduled care and achieve the Government maximum waiting time targets.
  4. Addressing Community Care Access and Waiting Lists: Additional ‘exploratory and foundational’ actions to better understand and take short, medium- and long-term action to address access and waiting lists in the community. 

The €350 million includes existing funding of €100 million allocated to the NTPF for 2022 plus an additional funding of €50 million, providing it with a total budget of €150 million for the year. With this funding, NTPF activity is projected to remove 273,000 patients from waiting lists, with activity encompassing support for public hospitals to treat more patients, commissioning care in private hospitals, validation, data quality, reform and systems and process development.  

In addition to NTPF activity, a significant proportion of the additional funding of €200 million is used to further increase activity so as to achieve a net reduction in waiting lists by the end of 2022. This includes €15 million dedicated to priority areas of gynaecology, paediatric orthopaedics (with a specific focus on spinal surgery) and bariatric/obesity treatments, as well as €20 million for initiatives that will reduce specific community care waiting lists (including orthodontics, primary care child psychology / counselling, CAMHS and autism).

The Department said the 2022 Waiting List Action Plan builds on the success of the short-term Waiting List Action Plan that ran from September to December last year and delivered a 5 per cent reduction in waiting lists, during that time period, equating to 40,000 additional people no longer on waiting lists.