Waiting list fund is cut to ease deficit

A total of €10 million is being taken from funding being used to cut waiting lists in order to reduce the HSE's €259 million deficit, it has emerged.

The figure represents nearly one-fifth of the money allocated by the Department of Health at the start of the year to cut waiting lists.

This is one of a number of additional cutback measures being implemented by the Department of Health to reduce the deficit, on top of the €130 million in cuts announced by the HSE last week. The measures include the transfer of unspent funds from the Department to the HSE.

However, the Department claimed the cut in National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) money 'will not affect' the current activity of the NTPF.

A Department spokesperson told irishhealth.com that among the additional measures being implemented to reduce the HSE deficit was the transfer of funds from the Department of Health to the HSE vote, 'on a once-off basis'

"The funds transferring from the Department's vote include an amount of €10 million in respect of the NTPF. The current activity of the NTPF will not be affected by this transfer as the funds in question had not yet been allocated to specific hospitals," the Department said.

However, as the funds being transferred were originally allocated to cut lists, there will be concerns that the cut could slow down the limited progress being made to date in reducing waiting times for treatment and trolley waits.

The waiting list initiative is currently being implemented by the Department's Special Delivery Unit, using NTPF money.

This year, NTPF funding allocated to cutting treatment waiting lists, ED trolley waits, outpatient waits and colonoscopy/endoscopy lists amounted to just over €60 million, so the €10 million funding cut represents a 17%  reduction in the fund allocated this year to cut lists.

Latest figures show that while inroads have been made into cutting patients waiting longest for treatment, there has been only a small drop in the total numbers on waiting lists. There are still around 58,000 on waiting lists for treatment, compared to 60,000 last September, when the Minister launched the SDU initiative.

In addition, latest figures also show there are record numbers waiting for non-urgent colonoscopies and for hospital outpatient appointments. There has been a reduction nationally in ED trolley numbers, although some large hospitals still have emergency unit overcrowding problems.

Meanwhile, in what appears appears to be a 'non-denial denial,' Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch has 'sought to dispel any notion' that there would be cuts to the mental health budget as part of the transfer of Department of Health money to the HSE to reduce its deficit, as reported today in the Irish Times.

It was reported that the €35 million in in mental health funding, to be used to strengthen multidisciplinary teams, would be deferred and money so far unspent would be used to cut the HSE deficit.

Minister Lynch's statement, however, admitted that no staff had yet started in the new mental health posts, indicating that money had yet to be spent on salaries. She said most start dates for the new posts were expected to be in December.

This does not directly contradict what was stated in the newspaper report, which quoted the Department as saying that the service developments concerned would proceed in the latter part of this year and early next year, indicating there would be a reservoir of unspent funds that could be utilised to cut the HSE deficit.

It has also been reported that funding not yet spent on primary care teams may be deferred and the unspent money transferred to HSE funds.

Health Minister James Reilly is due to make an announcement shortly on additional cuts over and above the €130 million in savings already announced.

The Department said the range of savings measures to be undertaken to meet the HSE deficit included some reductions in services, the use of capital funds for revenue purposes on a once-off basis. and the transfer of funds from the Department vote, also on a once-off basis.

Health cuts- you ain't seen nothing yet

 

[Posted: Thu 06/09/2012]

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