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New action plan targets reduction in waiting lists

By Reporter - 27th Mar 2024

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The new 2024 Waiting List Action Plan (WLAP) sets out 19 actions around capacity and scheduled care. The Government published the WLAP today (27 March), stating that there would be €360 million provided for the plan.

This year’s WLAP encompasses “four overarching targets”.

These include reducing the number of patients breaching the Sláintecare time targets (as of year-end 2023) by 10 per cent; reducing the number of patients waiting over three years, or at risk of being over three years, by 90 per cent; and reducing the overall waiting list volume by almost 6 per cent by year-end.

“This action plan aims to achieve an almost 6 per cent reduction in the overall number of patients on waiting lists by the end of December. This represents a significant increase on the 2.7 per cent reduction delivered last year,” said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

In its statement, the Department of Health said it is “important” that the WLAP targets “are contextualised” based on projected activity rates for 2024. The Department noted that “the rate of additions to the waiting list in 2024 is also projected to further increase beyond the levels experienced last year”.

“Despite the increased rate of additions, the 2024 WLAP aims to deliver more removals this year compared to 2023, which would ultimately result in a reduction in the overall waiting list from 671,413 in January to 632,086 by the end of December 2024 (a reduction of approximately 39,000 people).”

However, the IHCA has warned that waiting list reduction targets cannot be achieved unless the opening of planned additional hospital capacity is fast-tracked by the Government. 

Responding to the publication of the plan, the IHCA said that addressing the severe capacity deficits in the public health service, together with the shortage of consultants in post, are the key requirements to reducing waiting lists on a sustainable basis.

The Association also said that the shocking acceptance contained in the Action Plan that the inpatient and day case waiting list is predicted to increase to a staggering 96,800 by the end of 2024 should be a wake-up call to Government to urgently address these twin deficits of a shortage of consultants and a lack of sufficient public hospital capacity.

Separately, the HSE has asked the public to consider all care options this Easter Bank Holiday weekend before presenting at emergency departments.

“Our hospitals continue to be extremely busy,” said Ms Grace Rothwell, National Director, Acute Operations.

“Our emergency departments in particular continue to see significantly increased numbers of patients attending and being admitted. We continue to work hard across our hospital and community services to minimise the length of time patients wait to be treated, particularly those aged over 75.”

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