Plans to reduce consultant waiting lists off by 65,000, says Donnelly

Patients earning less than the median income of €46,000 will be eligible for a free GP visit card under the headline budgetary proposal in health, he said.
Plans to reduce consultant waiting lists off by 65,000, says Donnelly

Kenneth Fox

The Minister for Health says plans to reduce the number of patients waiting for an appointment with a consultant are 65,000 behind the target for this year.

As the Irish Times reports, speaking at a post-budget briefing on Wednesday, Stephen Donnelly said priority would be given to overtime and increases in capacity so that the waiting list target can be met.

Patients earning less than the median income of €46,000 will be eligible for a free GP visit card under the headline budgetary proposal in health, he said.

This threshold is net household income and is adjusted according to family size.

The Government plans to make 430,000 people eligible for free GP care from next April, though this is subject to agreement with the Irish Medical Organisation.

Asked about criticism by doctors of the plan, the Minister said: “Sometimes if you wait for the perfect and for everyone to be satisfied, the right thing takes too long to happen.”

While he understood the nervousness of GPs about the proposal, “ultimately, Government has to decide whether it’s time to do what needs to be done”.

More patients attending GP surgeries should be seen by practice nurses, he suggested, as some did not need to see a doctor.

Ireland needs about 2,000 additional consultants, Mr Donnelly told reporters. He said he would like to see a new public-only consultant contract agreed with doctors’ representatives “in the coming weeks”.

A lot of issues have been ironed out in the long-running negotiations, he added, but some issues remain to be resolved.

The inpatient waiting list is trending downwards, he said, though there has been a slight increase this month. The health service is 2,800 patients behind the target of reducing the number by 17 per cent this year.

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