HSE chief Paul Reid has admitted that long waiting lists for hospital services are “unacceptable”, in evidence about the HSE’s National Service Plan 2022 given to the Oireachtas Health Committee.
Mr Reid said a “multi-annual” approach was needed to resolve the “chronic” issues with waiting lists.
“We have to get on top of the day-to-day demand that’s coming at us first,” he said.
“The plan does set out that if we do nothing we will have another 15,000 people added to the waiting list. We want to address that by staying ahead of that.”
HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said that part of the strategy was to provide new ways to access care “rather than rely on the traditional referrals to consultants in hospitals with lengthy waiting lists”.
“For example, we are expanding a virtual fracture clinic which began in Tullamore Hospital and is expanding throughout the country.”
He said that for uncomplicated fractures, “rather than wait three weeks, with repeated visits to in-person fracture clinics, and with provision of extra physiotherapy and advanced nurse practitioners, we can provide the next step (at) virtual fracture clinics with appropriate advice and as good outcomes and a high degree of patient satisfaction”.
He said that since the pandemic there has been a huge rise in the use of ‘virtual clinics’, and this is one of the ways the HSE plans to diversify how people access healthcare.
“In one year we will not address really serious legacy issues in terms of our waiting lists,” Mr Reid added.
“We had a short-term action plan from September to December when we were coming out of one wave of Covid, we did see a 5% reduction in the waiting list.
“The current plan sets out to seek what would be the biggest ever reduction of 18% and we have been under challenge in the force for months, but it will set out to very significantly start to progress this year.”
Mr Reid added that “much of the significant extra funds” the HSE has received over the last couple of years have helped with recruitment issues.
The National Service Plan 2022, with a budget of €20.7bn, outlines the health and social care services that will be provided to the Irish public.
The budget includes an investment of €310.3m in new measures, including the HSE’s Winter Plan, and 200 million euros to cover acute and community scheduled care access, which includes waiting lists.
Mr Reid said that “a very significant” part of the HSE’s Capital Plan’s one billion euros is “consumed” by some of the major strategic projects from the last few years, including the National Children’s Hospital, the National Forensic Mental Hospital, and the National Rehabilitation Hospital.
Mr Reid also said that Liam Woods, who is currently director of acute operations at the HSE, will be leaving the role to take on a new one within the HSE.
“I sent out internal communications that Liam Woods, based on our commitment to Slaintecare, will take up a new role in terms of Implementation Lead,” he said.