No protocols to manage hospital waiting lists

File photo

Major shortcomings in how waiting lists are managed by some hospitals have been found in an audit published by the Department of Health.

There were delays of up to 49 working days in adding patients to the outpatient list and 28 days in adding patients to the inpatient and day case waiting list.

Nine hospitals, including University Hospital Limerick and University Hospital Waterford, were audited by the National Treatment Purchase Fund between January and November last year.

Some hospitals did not date stamp referrals or admission or booking forms when they received them.

Because of the way waiting lists were managed, there was inaccurate reporting of patient wait times at both local and national level.

According to the national protocol, patients should be added to the electronic waiting list within three days of the completed waiting list booking form.

In most of the hospitals audited there was no standardised admission or booking form and none of the forms reviewed fully met with all 25 minimum information requirements.

The auditors found there was greater use of the forms to list patients on the waiting list than on the planned procedure list.

In some of the hospitals, it was not standard practise to complete forms in certain specialities.

There was also variation across the hospitals audited in the management of gastrointestinal endoscopy referrals from GPs.

Because of the variation in practice, there were inconsistencies in the ‘date added’ to the waiting list and this had the potential to affect patient waiting times.

The audit also revealed that not all hospitals were removing patients from lists in a timely manner.

There was a difference of between two and 32 weeks between the date of actual removal and when the patient should have been removed.

The HSE has accepted the findings in the NTPF report that a full assurance cannot be given that hospitals are complying with waiting list management protocols.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the protocols are to ensure there is a consistent and standardised approach to the management and scheduling of patients on hospital lists.

The audits follow an RTÉ Investigates programme entitled Living on the List that was broadcast in February 2017 highlighting the experiences of 11 patients on waiting lists across six hospitals nationally.

The minister directed the NTPF to audit the practices in the six hospitals highlighted in the programme and the department asked it to cover other public acute hospitals last year.

All of the hospitals included in the latest audit have fully accepted the individual audit findings and agreed to implement the recommendations.

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