Leo Varadkar wants 18-month limit on waiting for appointment

Minister for Health’s 25 priorities for the year include easier access to primary care

 Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: priorities include putting in a planning application for a maternity hospital at St Vincent’s, getting hospital groups up and increasing the number of people with insurance. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar: priorities include putting in a planning application for a maternity hospital at St Vincent’s, getting hospital groups up and increasing the number of people with insurance. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

No patient will be on a hospital waiting list for more than 18 months by the summer, under targets to be announced by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar today.

They envisage reductions by the end of the year in the number of patients waiting more than nine hours on trolleys, although a specific numerical target is not being set. Emergency department and trolley waits will be cut by reducing the number of delayed discharges in hospital by a third, according to Mr Varadkar.

The Minister and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch will today publish a list of 25 priorities for the year.

There will be a new plan to address waiting lists by focusing on patients waiting a long time. Mr Varadkar says by the summer nobody will be waiting longer than 18 months for in-patient and day-case treatment or an outpatient appointment, and further reductions will be made by the end of the year.

The target is a modest one, given former minister for health James Reilly promised nobody would have to wait more than 12 months for an appointment and later reduced this target to nine months.

Extra funding

Also included in Mr Varadkar’s plan are new measures to increase the number of people with private health insurance.

About 300,000 people have given up their cover over the past six years due to unemployment, emigration and spiralling premiums. However, this decline has stopped and figures to be published this month are expected to show a modest increase in subscribers.

The Minister’s other priorities for the year include the submission of a planning application for the new national maternity hospital on the St Vincent’s Hospital campus in Dublin, getting hospital groups up and running and extending and implementing the national clinical effectiveness guidelines.

Mr Varadkar will prioritise access for GPs to scans and other diagnostic services and he says he will improve the way patients get primary care by supporting new models for managing chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and arthritis.