Responding to this morning’s reports of significant delays uncovered by a National Treatment Purchase Fund audit of hospital waiting lists, co-leader of the Social Democrats Róisín Shortall has said:

“It is bad enough that there are now 685,000 people on public waiting lists for hospital services but the news this morning that these lists cannot be trusted and lack fairness and transparency is a matter of serious concern. It should not be too much to expect that hospital managers operate a fair and transparent waiting list system, but clearly this is not the case. Today’s audit shows up serious maladministration where some patients are skipping the queue at the expense of other, possibly more urgent, cases. It has also shown up a delay in adding patients to waiting lists. When you consider that public patients are already faced with long waits for outpatient appointments any further delay in adding them to a waiting list for treatment is indefensible.”

“While the results of this audit are deeply concerning, they are hardly surprising. Its findings are borne out starkly on a daily basis in TD’s offices where we’re seeing patients not only waiting unacceptably long times, but also dealing with the constant cancellation of their appointments.”

“It has to be asked, who is responsible for this maladministration and what role do consultants play in it? The absurd situation where public hospitals are given targets for maximising their private patient income clearly constitutes a perverse incentive and gives rise to queue jumping.  In addition, the lack of legal accountability for consultants and hospital managers for their performance leaves the system wide open to abuse. There is no doubt that the blurring of lines between public and private healthcare in our public hospitals facilitates this kind of dysfunction and unfairness.”

“It’s critical that in the next phase of the audit the figures identify which of these patients are public and which are private, and who exactly is responsible within the hospital system.”

“Furthermore, the National Treatment Purchase Fund should publish the outpatient and inpatient waiting times for every consultant. The NTPF has access to this information and the public have a right to know”, concluded Deputy Shortall.

ENDS