People waiting over six months for 10 procedures to be seen this year

The measure is part of a new plan to tackle waiting lists in the health sector

Any patient waiting more than six months for some common procedures, such as cataract removal, joint replacement or angiograms, is to be offered treatment this year, under a new plan from Minister for Health Simon Harris.

The plan aims to “stabilise” the waiting lists for inpatient and outpatient appointments. The waiting list for outpatient appointments currently stands at a record 542,000 after disruption caused by cancellations forced by the hospital trolley crisis and three days of strike action by nurses in January and February.

The procedures are being outsourced to the private sector and will be funded by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF), which received €75 million in the last budget to pay for removing 100,000 people off waiting lists this year.

Under the Minister’s Scheduled Care Access Plan 2019, all clinically suitable patients waiting more than six months for 10 high-volume procedures will be offered treatment in 2019.


The procedures are: cataract removal; joint replacements; varicose veins; tonsillectomies; cystoscopies; angiograms; lesions; laparoscopic cholecystectomies; septoplasties; and dental/maxillofacial surgery.

The number of patients waiting for an inpatient procedure fell from a peak of 86,000 in mid-2017 to 70,200 at the end of last year, but has edged up since to 71,200 at the end of February. The plan envisages this figure dropping below 60,000 by the end of this year.

The number of patients waiting more than three months for a procedure has grown by 4,000 since the start of the year, but the plan envisages this total figure dropping by 13,000 by the end of 2019.

The number waiting for an outpatient appointment has soared from 516,000 at the end of last year to 542,000 in February, but the plan envisages a fall to 509,000 by the end of 2019.

‘Significant progress’

Mr Harris said significant progress had been made last year in improving access for patients to hospital operations and appointments, but “due to a number of factors”, activity so far this year has been behind target and waiting lists are higher than projected.

“The challenge now will be to catch up on lost activity and meet the targets set out in the plan. The HSE and the NTPF are fully committed to meeting these targets, and I look forward to progress in this regard. Irish patients want and deserve timely access to hospital procedures and appointments.”

The last Government succeeded in cutting waiting lists through the provision of special support for the NTPF, but once this funding was removed, the lists grew again.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.