Patient register questioned

THE Comptroller and Auditor General has questioned the reliability of the register of patients waiting for treatment.

The C&AG, John Buckley, said there was scope for improving the Patient Treatment Register so it represented the true numbers of patients awaiting treatment for medical conditions.

His 2009 annual report found that while most public hospitals are adhering to a revised national waiting list policy introduced last December, five hospitals were still not returning data according to the policy guidelines.

It points out that patients who availed of treatment under the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) had been waiting for at least eight months before being admitted to hospital.

On referral to the NTPF, the average waiting time from that referral to admission was almost two months.

However, the C&AG found that a considerable number of patients waited longer than two months, while many only spent a short time on the waiting lists.

The NTPF, a Government funded initiative, was established in 2002 to arrange for patients waiting longest on public hospital waiting lists to be treated in private hospitals free of charge.

Treatments available under the NTPF range from cardiac surgery to hip replacements to treatment for varicose veins and cataracts.

In the case of out-patient consultations, validation exercises found that only 50% of patients took up consultations and that 25% were removed from the list.

The C&AG said there was a need to address the way out-patient waiting was recorded and managed and suggested that the lists would be more accurate and reliable if there was a central collection where they could be validated.

Mr Buckley said there was also a need for accurate data on the number of patients awaiting for out-patient appointments to support a more efficient delivery of services.


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