Health watchdog proposes referral thresholds

Hiqa says proposal will cut waiting times for common operations

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly: has received Hiqa’s report on referral and treatment guidelines. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Dr James Reilly: has received Hiqa’s report on referral and treatment guidelines. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 07:00

The Health Information and Quality Authority says referral and treatment guidelines should be introduced for common scheduled procedures.

The authority says the proposal to introduce referral thresholds will cut waiting lists but may not necessarily result in fewer operations being carried out.

Dr Mairin Ryan of Hiqa said the thresholds should provide patients and their doctors with greater clarity about the clinical criteria used by surgeons to inform the decision to operate. “The thresholds, where possible, should minimise referral to surgical outpatients of patients who do not proceed to surgery.”

The procedures covered in reports published today are: varicose vein surgery (vascular surgery); tonsillectomy; grommet insertion and adenoidectomy; and cataract surgery.

The HSE asked Hiqa last year to evaluate scheduled surgical procedures and advise on possible thresholds on high volume procedures. Demand for these procedures grew 22 per cent in 2011.

About 388,000 patients are currently waiting for a first outpatient appointment.

According to Hiqa, over 3,500 varicose vein surgical procedures are performed each year, 3,500 tonsillectomy cases, 3,400 grommets plus adenoidectomy cases and 9,500 cataract surgery cases.

The reports have been sent to the HSE and Minister for Health James Reilly.