Waiting list system changed
Health Minister James Reilly's Special Delivery Unit (SDU) has changed the way hospital treatment lists are calculated as part of its initiative to tackle these lists.
The Department of Health says in doing so, the SDU has made significant progress in reducing lists and in clearing the lists of 'long waiters'.
Its target is that nobody should be waiting over 12 months for treatment by the end of this year, and the Department says this is being achieved.
However, contradictions now exist between the new SDU method of calculating waiting lists and the methods used by the HSE.
It is difficult to ascertain from the two sets of figures exactly how many people are still on waiting lists at the moment.
Dr Reilly, at a Budget press conference on Monday, announced that the numbers waiting over 12 months for treatment had recently been reduced from 14,000 to 948.
Asked to explain this figure for 12-month waiters, which seemed inordinately high, the Department said the 14,000 figure was set by the SDU in July. It was based on the numbers on the list in December 2010 who if they had remained on the list would have been waiting for 12 months for care at the end of this year.
The HSE's waiting list for December 2010 showed there were nearly 21,000 people on waiting for care for more than three months at that time, with around 1,100 waiting more than 12 months at that time. Twelve-month plus waiters increased to 3,300 by July, according to the HSE figures.
The Department told irishhealth.com that the HSE lists are based on those who had already been waiting for 12 months at the time, whereas the SDU's list 'projects forward' the numbers waiting for shorter periods in December 2010 who would be waiting 12 months by the end of this year if they did not get treated in the meantime.
This process is known at the 'maximum waiting time target.'
This, the Department says, is where the 14,000 figure quoted by the Minister figure emanates from and it referred to all patients who would have breached the new 12-month target on December 31 this year.
It said there had been a dramatic reduction in this list, from 14,000 to 948, the latter being those who are set to breach the 12 months target at the end of the year if they do not get treated before then.
The Department says the SDU has reduced the 14,000 waiting list, firstly by verifying it to see if their were duplications or names that were no longer active.
Secondly, consistent interaction with hospitals has been employed to make sure the relevant energy was brought to bear on reducing the lists.
The Department has not provided detailed figures as yet from the SDU of exactly how many patients are still on waiting lists for over three months.
It is not clear how the figures produced by the Department tally with the most recent figures from the HSE of 30,000 on waiting lists for over three months, including around 3,500 on waiting lists for more than 12 months.
[Posted: Wed 07/12/2011]