Dáil hears waiting-list plan to come before Government ‘shortly’

National Treatment Purchase Fund data notes 900,000 on various lists, says Sinn Féin

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he will bring the 2022 waiting-list plan to Government "very shortly".

Mr Donnelly said waiting lists are one of the biggest challenges facing the health service and it is a "top priority" for Government. He was responding to Sinn Féin's health spokesman David Cullinane in the Dáil on Tuesday, who asked what the Minister's strategy was to "once and for all tackle the dangerously high wait times that we have".

Mr Cullinane said the latest figures from the National Treatment Purchase Fund last weekend showed almost 900,000 people were on some form of waiting list.

“We’re not going in the right direction, we’re going in the wrong direction,” he said.

In response, Mr Donnelly said before the Covid-19 pandemic waiting lists across the board were far too high, are still too high and significant action is required.

He said the waiting-list plan would be brought to Government shortly and builds on the plan for the last quarter of 2021, which resulted in a 6 per cent reduction in the waiting lists last year.

Mr Donnelly said the plan would include revised waiting-list management protocols, improved data collection and information and more work on improving “patient pathways of care”.

Kerry Camhs

Separately, the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler said the consultant psychiatrist post in south Kerry Camhs (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) is "unfortunately still vacant".

Ms Butler said the HSE does not expect to have a permanent consultant in the short term and has put extra support into the team there.

"A dedicated consultant lead is in place and additional support is provided by other consultants," she said. "Online consultant appointments have been offered. In the long term the HSE will establish a clinical support team in Killarney, and this will take a little bit of time, to provide a point of contact and support in the future."

Ms Butler said the HSE will be in direct contact with the young people and families shortly with details of that clinical support team.

A recent report from the HSE said hundreds of children received “risky” treatment from a doctor working in mental health in south Kerry and significant harm was caused to 46 of them.

A review examined the treatment of more than 1,300 young people who attended the south Kerry Camhs over a four-year period.

The risks involved in the treatment by the doctor included sleepiness, dulled feelings, slowed thinking and serious weight gain and distress, according to the review.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times