Downgraded waiting list action plan falls at first hurdle – IHCA
Lowered reduction targets for end of 2023 dependent on removing record 146,000 patients through ‘validation’ of lists
- 14,800 people added to three main waiting lists in the first two months of 2023, missing Government reduction target by over 26,000;
- Consultants criticise lack of ambition of Government’s new Action Plan which lowers previous reduction target of 18% to 10% this year; a 4% reduction was achieved in 2022;
- Projected cuts in waiting lists are dependent on NTPF removing 146,000 people without any treatment through ‘validation programme’; more than double the validation target of 60,000 in last year’s Action Plan;
- 885,000 people on some form of public hospital waiting list at end of February; an increase of 300,000 (52%) compared with May 2017 when Sláintecare published;
- Latest €443m Action Plan unlikely to meet waiting list targets unless Government addresses public hospital capacity deficits and Consultant vacancies, say Consultants.
IHCA President Prof Robert Landers: “The NTPF figures released today confirm our fears that these waiting lists may take a decade or more to get under control without simultaneously resolving the severe capacity deficits in our public hospitals and filling the one in five Consultant posts vacant or filled on a temporary basis.”
The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) has today (Friday 10 March 2023) warned that the Government’s Waiting List Action Plan for 2023 launched this week has already fallen at the first hurdle, just as the previous plan had done exactly a year ago.
Commenting as the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) today released its waiting list figures for the end of February, the IHCA said the 2023 Action Plan in no way adequately addresses the key capacity deficits in our public hospitals that are the root cause of there being almost 900,000 people waiting for essential hospital care.
The €443 million Plan1 has set a target to reduce waiting lists for outpatient appointments and inpatient and day case treatment and procedures by 69,000 (10%) by the end of the year compared with the number waiting at the start of 2023.
However, just two months into 2023 and instead of an expected reduction of around 11,500 in these main waiting lists, the latest NTPF figures released today confirm that 14,800 additional people have in fact been added since the start of the year – a shortfall of over 26,300.2
Last year’s Action Plan3 had wanted to cut the number of people on waiting lists by more than 132,000 (18%) by the end of 2022, but could only achieve a reduction of 29,800 – or 4%.
The modest decrease last year included more than 70,000 people removed from the waiting lists without any treatment in the first nine months of 2022 alone through an NTPF ‘validation programme’.4
The IHCA is concerned that this year’s Action Plan is predicated on significantly increasing the number of people to be removed from the waiting lists through this ‘validation’ system to 146,000 – more than double the 60,000 validation target for 2022.
Over 885,000 people were on some form of NTPF waiting list at the end of February, including numerous less publicised pre-admit, planned procedure and suspension lists. This is an increase of 300,000 (52%) in the number of people on waiting lists compared with May 2017 when Sláintecare was published.
Commenting on today’s NTPF figures, IHCA President Professor Robert Landers said:
“The 2023 Waiting List Action Plan published by the Department of Health this week has already fallen at the first hurdle, as did the previous plan last year. The NTPF figures released today confirm our fears that these waiting lists may take a decade or more to get under control without simultaneously resolving the severe capacity deficits in our public hospitals and filling the one in five Consultant posts vacant or filled on a temporary basis.
“Unfortunately, we are not confident that any of the 30 actions listed in the Government’s new Waiting List Plan will adequately address the fundamental issue of the overwhelming shortage of acute hospital beds, outpatient facilities, theatres, diagnostics and other frontline resources required to bring these unacceptable waiting lists down.”
Notes to editors:
1. The 2023 Waiting List Action Plan allocates €363m to reducing hospital waiting lists and an additional €80m for various community and primary care waiting list initiatives: https://www.gov.ie/pdf/?file=https://assets.gov.ie/249526/8b203212-06b9-4ddc-96f7-9938b0707e19.pdf#page=null
2. Analysis based on latest NTFP data as at end of February 2023: https://www.ntpf.ie/home/nwld.htm
3. 2022 Waiting List Action Plan: https://assets.gov.ie/216946/7d2067d1-5b81-4061-8371-ad2e908f7bac.pdf
4. Dáil PR response from Minister Stephen Donnelly to Deputy John Lahart, 13 October 2022: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2022-10-13/388
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