European study criticises HSE for access and waiting times for patients

Ireland is now ranked 21st out of 35 countries

HSE, ranking, EHCI, waiting times, access, European Health Consumer Index, Ireland

2007 File photo | Image: RollingNews.ie

A new European study has criticised the Health Service Executive (HSE) for long waiting times for patients.

The European Health Consumer Index (EHCI) is based on a range of measures - including access to health services and waiting times, health insurance, and Ireland's legal position in relation to abortion.

It takes into account a combination of public statistics, patient surveys and independent research conducted by the authors.

The HSE has been ranked 21st out of 35 countries - up from 22nd out of 37 in 2015.

In a statement following the publication of the index, the HSE says it "explicitly acknowledges in its 2016 Service Plan" that it lacks capacity to provide the type of accessible health services required to meet the current needs of the population.

"The twin impact of the economic recession and demographic changes in recent years has left the needs of the population and the capacity of the health system out of balance", it says.

It adds that while the overall length of time people spend on waiting lists has improved in recent years, the total numbers waiting, and the numbers waiting in excess of four months for out-patient assessment and in-patient treatment, are "unacceptably and unsustainably high".

The HSE says it is working with the health minister to ensure no one is waiting more than 18 months for an out-patient appointment or inpatient treatment.

The Index is published by the Swedish-based private company, Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP).

The HSE says since 2014, the HCP has been using patient organisation feedback only to score Ireland on accessibility (waiting times) - which resulted in Ireland’s ranking dropping from 14 in 2013.

The HSE says it has outlined its "dissatisfaction" that official data has been excluded by HCP.

"While the HSE accepts that it has challenges in relation to data, primarily due to the lack of investment during the recession, the Irish health system has been late introducing technology which has inhibited our ability to properly track an individual’s interaction with the health service", it says.

The author of the report, Professor Arne Bjornberg, told Newstalk Lunchtime they have been seeing big discrepancies in their data.