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HSE outpatient action plan will not eliminate long-waiters

The OP Action Plan 2017, published in May, states that on 28 February, there were more than 454,000 people awaiting outpatient services, of which more than 63,000 were waiting over 15 months.

“2016 activity levels would need to be doubled to achieve the target of no patient waiting greater than 15 months by October 31,” according to the plan.

It aims to reduce the number of patients currently waiting or who will be waiting 15 months or more for outpatient services by the end of October.

“Based on NTPF [National Treatment Purchase Fund] projections at the end of February, the total number of patients who require consultation before the end of October to ensure no patient is waiting greater than 15 months is 191,016,” the plan noted.

The HSE estimates that between February and October, 90,498 of these patients will come off the waiting list.

“This level of activity would mean that 47.3 per cent of the total number of patients waiting longer than 15 months by October would come off the waiting list,” the plan outlined. 

Some 5,010 more patients will commence outpatient assessment and/or treatment following various improvement initiatives.

According to the plan, this means that about 50 per cent of patients who would be waiting longer than 15 months by October will come off the waiting list, representing an increase of over 5 per cent in activity compared with the previous year.

The plan pointed out that “there has been an increase in outpatient referrals in the region of 5 per cent across the past four years, with an average weekly increase of over 1,200 patients this year to date.

“HSE acute services see, on average, 17,600 new and 46,200 return patients each week, resulting in 3.3 million outpatients seen per year. Approximately 2,586 ‘long-waiters’ are seen per week within this overall activity level of 17,600.”

It noted that outpatient slots are assigned on the basis of clinical need.

Strict management of agreed staff leave and new referral pathway pilot projects are also planned in a bid to cut waiting lists. 

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