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Delays in outpatient commissioning due to pandemic and cyberattack

By Paul Mulholland - 07th Jan 2022

a young nurse stands and chats to a senior woman patient as she leaves the surgery. She is wearing a lilac nursing uniform and holding a bottle of pills . She is smiling to the senior woman and explaining . In the background a hospital interior can be seen.

An internal National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) report from last year detailed problems regarding the
commissioning of outpatient activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic and cyberattack, the Medical Independent
can report. According to the Report on Commissioning, which was presented to the NTPF’s board in July 2021 and obtained by MI through Freedom of Information law, “Covid pressure and the impact of the cyberattack” put administrative departments in public hospitals under significant pressure.

“This has resulted in a delay in rolling out the outsourcing of outpatients in some sites as staff are unavailable for training or processing CANs [case authorisation numbers],” the report stated. A CAN is issued for any patient treated under the NTPF’s commissioning function. The public hospitals must approve outpatient outsourced CANs to ensure patients are clinically suitable before letters of offer of NTPF-supported treatment can be issued.

“These issues have been escalated to the HSE, who is actively working with the commissioning team to find solutions,” according to the report. “The commissioning team continue to work with hospitals that have the resources to progress the outsourcing of outpatients.” The report also noted that since the cyberattack in May 2021, hospitals had not provided weekly reports on the insourcing of outpatient activity “as they had limited or no access to email and/or staff were redeployed to assist with recovery”.

Some hospitals continued with NTPF-funded initiatives, but it was unclear at the time of the report how many outpatients were seen since the cyberattack. At the time, the NTPF had approved 84,681 outpatient appointments under insourcing arrangements. “The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and Health Service Executive ransomware
attack in May has resulted in significant disruption across the hospital system,” a spokesperson for the Fund told MI.

“The NTPF can confirm that the outsourcing of outpatients has been successfully rolled out across all sites and
that its current level of outpatient commissioning is in line with projections.

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