Simon Harris to announce initiative to cut endoscopy waiting lists
National Treatment Purchase Fund to help take 18,000 patients off lists across State
Minister for Health Simon Harris is to announce an initiative to help reduce the number of people on waiting lists for diagnostic endoscopy tests. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Minister for Health Simon Harris is to announce an initiative to help reduce the number of people on waiting lists for diagnostic endoscopy tests, also known as scopes.
Details of the initiative are expected to be finalised by the National Treatment Purchase Fund and announced in the coming days.
It will be similar to one announced by the minister at the end of last year, when the NTPF paid for capacity in private hospitals in order to get more than 3,000 patients who had been waiting over 18 months for day-case treatment off waiting lists.
The patients, who included people waiting for cataract and other minor surgeries, dental extractions and treatment of skin lesions, received their treatment in private hospitals.
Over 18,000 people across the State were waiting for endoscopy procedures as at the end of July, according to the NTPF’s official figures.
Speaking on a visit to the Bon Secours Hospital in Dublin where he observed a pioneering new endoscopy project known as PillCam, the minister said he intended to replicate the initiative with a similar one to cover scope procedures.
Mr Harris said he believed some progress was being made in some hospital groups in relation to endoscopies, but that these were masking other areas that were not performing as well.
“There’s significant opportunity to use the NTPF in relation to endoscopies,” he said.
Mr Harris said the pilot project in the Bon Secours, whereby patients will swallow a tiny device that allows clinicians to see the inside of their gastro-intestinal tract without any need for sedation or tubes, could potentially provide some learning for the public system.
He said he believed that in some cases the technology, which is owned by Medtronic, could end up reducing hospital costs, as patients might not need further interventions such as procedures under anaesthetic.
The PillCam™Pilot Programme involves 50 patients.
Mr Harris also launched a direct access endoscopy programme which will allow GPs to directly refer suitable patients to the Bon Secours Hospital for a scope.
Patients can have a procedure completed within 72 hours of referral by the GP.
The Bon Secours Health System has five acute hospitals, in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Tralee, as well as a care village in Cork and a Cavan outreach consultants clinic. It has over 3,000 staff and treats about 280,000 patients a year.