Shortall demands action on health service data after waiting list dispute

The Taoiseach says there is a "lot of double counting" in the waiting list figures

Shortall demands action on health service data after waiting list dispute

Image: Mark O'Driscoll/Newstalk

The co-leader of the Social Democrats has warned that the health service must produce data that we can trust after the Taoiseach questioned the reported number of people on hospital waiting lists.

Figures released by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) on Thursday evening suggest that over 700,000 people are waiting for treatment in Irish hospitals.

The total includes 514,585 people waiting for an outpatient appointment and 74,189 people waiting for inpatient or day case procedures. 

The data is released across nine separate lists and yesterday, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cast doubt on the headline figures.

Insisting that the country is “moving in the right direction” in dealing with the lists, he insisted there is a "lot of double counting" included in the figures.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of the Land Development Agency, 13-09-2018. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

This afternoon, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said it is essential that the health service publishes data that we can trust.

“We have very little data about the health service,” she said.

“It is dysfunctional in lots of ways and what we need to is to reform it.

“The Taoiseach was talking about whether we can believe the waiting lists data and there is a problem there with data in the health service.

“But we also know that the reality is that very large numbers of people – whatever that exact number is – very large numbers of people are waiting for services.”

Deputy Shortall chaired the Oireachtas Future of Healthcare Committee that brought forward the all-party Sláintecare plan to reform the health service.

After addressing the Irish Medical Organisation Annual Conference in Croke Park this morning, she said the plan must be rolled out as a matter of urgency.

“Lots of people are excluded because of our two-tier health service,” she said.

“That is what we have to change. We have to get to the European model where there is a public health service that people can trust in, where they don’t have to pay private health insurance and where they know they will get good quality service in a timely way.

“Any civilised society should have that.”

The Sláintecare plan aims to radically transform the health service and establish a universal, single-tiered service - delivered on medical need and not on ability to pay.

Aiming to move services away from the acute hospital sector towards primary and social care, the plan recommends free GP care for all, a phasing out of private healthcare within public hospitals and cuts to the cost of medication for patients.

With reporting from Mark O'Driscoll ...