Question to the Minister for Health:
To ask the Minister for Health the measures that have been taken to tackle the number of patients on trolleys nationally; the impact of these measures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 20th March, 2013
Minister for Health (Dr. James Reilly):
Immediately following my appointment, I set out to address the issues which have been causing unacceptable delays in patients being treated in our hospitals. I established the Special Delivery Unit (SDU), as set out in the Programme for Government. The SDU is working to unblock access to acute services by improving the flow of patients through the system. Since its establishment there has been significant improvements in the waiting times for unscheduled care against a background of reduced funding for health, reconfiguration of services and a challenging socio-economic climate.
Hospitals across the country have experienced a surge in presentations to ED, as would be expected in the winter months, resulting in high demand for admissions and a consequent rise in trolley waits. Recent outbreaks of influenza have created additional logistical difficulties in relation to the admission, movement and discharge of patients in some hospitals. Those hospitals have released media messages advising non-attendance and restrictions on visiting. The SDU continues to monitor ED activity closely, engaging with key hospitals via teleconference and on-site meetings, collaborating in putting in place a range of measures to assist with patient flow and reviewing the available data for trends in relation to the reported levels of high activity.
Despite these pressures the year on year improvements continue nationally. Numbers recorded on trolleys at the end of 2012 showed a marked improvement of 23.6% less than 2011 which equates to 20,386 less people. From 1st January to 15th March, there has been a total of 15,220 patients on trolleys: this is a reduction of 2,258 patients or 12.9% on the equivalent period last year. Priority now is to reduce long waiters (over 9 hours) as we move to a six hour patient journey target. The SDU and the Patient Safety & Quality Directorate in the are currently in communication to agree a mechanism of capturing and responding in instances where a Hospital reports one or more patients breaching 24 hours on a trolley on one or more occasion.