15. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Health the improvement in waiting times expected during 2018 for the 15,000 plus children waiting over a year for an outpatient appointment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 6419/18 asked on 08 Feb 2018)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): The most recent NTPF figures published for December 2017 show that there was a total of 41,678 people on the Outpatient waiting list for hospitals in the Children’s Hospital Group. 65% of these children (26,958) are waiting up to 12 months and 35% (14,720) are waiting over 12 months for a first Outpatient appointment.

The HSE has confirmed there have been challenges in addressing the OPD waiting times due to consultant resourcing issues, arising from retirements, vacancies and demand in single-handed consultant services, such as allergy and immunology. In addition, the NTPF focus over the last two years has been on addressing Inpatient and Daycase waiting times. However, the HSE and NTPF are working together to develop Waiting List Action Plans for 2018. October’s Budget announced a total 2018 allocation of €55m for the NTPF for 2018. This significant increase in funding more than doubles its 2017 total allocation of €20m.

It is acknowledged that the Outpatient Waiting Lists generally remains a challenge that needs to be addressed. It is worth noting that in 2016 the children’s hospitals recorded that approximately 13% of patients did not attend their Outpatient appointment. This is something that must be tackled including through improved engagement with patients and families and ongoing validation of waiting lists. A number of steps, including the commencement of a national waiting list validation project by the HSE, are being taken to ensure the lists are accurate and these efforts are to intensify in the coming months.