Eight-month limit set on wait for treatment
No adult will have to wait more than eight months for hospital treatment, according to a target in the Health Service Executive’s service plan for this year.
No child will have to wait more than 20 weeks for an elective procedure, the plan published yesterday also states.
The plan also envisages that no person will have to wait longer than one year for an outpatient appointment. Currently, about 115,000 people have been waiting more than 12 months for such an appointment.
The plan also promises that no person will have to wait more than four weeks for an urgent colonoscopy or 13 weeks for a routine one, and it targets the discharge or admission of 95 per cent of all people attending emergency departments within six hours of registration.
Overall funding from the Government to the HSE in 2013 will be €13.4 billion. This reflects a net increase of €71.5 million, according to the HSE.
Factors such as demographic pressures, increased demand for medical cards and budgetary pressures in hospitals are expected to push up spending by €748 million, while cost reductions of €721 million are targeted.
The HSE says that for the first time allocations in the plan are based on projected spending rather than on historic budgets. It says this should result in sustainable budgets, especially in the hospital sector, which has struggled in recent years to break even.
HSE director designate Tony O’Brien said the service continued to face the challenge of reducing costs while at the same time improving outcomes for patients. The new budgetary approach would reduce the likelihood of financial crisis in the latter part of the year, as occurred in 2012.
Mr O’Brien said that, despite the ongoing challenges, the plan provided for significant investment in mental health, primary care, ambulance services and colorectal screening.
“New investment is being funded by targeted savings and cost reductions in the primary care schemes and cost of drugs and in delivering greater savings through the Croke Park agreement.”
“Very substantial” cost efficiencies are targeted in the primary care reimbursement service (medical cards) to save €383 million. An additional €17 million is being made available to cover the cost of new cancer drugs while personal assistance and home-help hours are being kept at levels in the 2012 service plan.
Staffing levels in the health service are to be reduced by almost 4,000 this year, in part through a targeted voluntary redundancy scheme.
However, the plan also provides for recruitment of an additional 1,000 staff in key areas such as mental health and primary care.
The plan has been approved by Minister for Health James Reilly.
Dr Reilly, who presented the plan to Cabinet on Tuesday, said 2013 would be a challenging year but the HSE’s task was to cut the cost of services without at the same time cutting the level or quality of services.
He said the fact that the budget for homecare packages and home-help hours had been set at the 2012 level underscored the Government’s commitment to the most vulnerable and its determination to empower elderly people to stay in their homes.