Minister Donnelly publishes the Waiting List Action Plan for 2024

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly has published the 2024 Waiting List Action Plan (WLAP). Total funding of €360 million has been provided for the WLAP this year and the WLAP sets out 19 actions across three themes, namely Delivering Capacity, Reforming Scheduled Care, and Enabling Scheduled Care Reform.

The 2024 Plan builds on progress achieved in 2021, 2022 and 2023 as part of the multi-annual WLAP approach, initiated by Minister Donnelly to sustainably reduce and reform hospital waiting lists and waiting times, and to move closer to achieving the Sláintecare maximum wait times.

Minister Donnelly stated:

“I am delighted to publish the 2024 Waiting List Action Plan. This ambitious Plan will continue the positive progress we have been making in relation to our waiting list performance in recent years.

“This Action Plan aims to achieve an almost 6% reduction in the overall number of patients on waiting lists by the end of December. This represents a significant increase on the 2.7% reduction delivered last year.

“Importantly from a patient perspective, in 2023, we achieved significant improvements in waiting times. This is an integral component of our work again this year, with three of the four overarching targets in the Action Plan specifically focused on improving waiting times.”

This year’s Plan encompasses four overarching targets to reduce both waiting list numbers and also the time that people wait for their care, namely:

  • Sláintecare Time Targets – reducing the number of patients breaching the Sláintecare Time Targets (as of year-end 2023) by 10%;
  • Patients Waiting Over three years – reducing the number of patients waiting over 3 years or at risk of being over 3 years by 90%;
  • National Service Plan (NSP) Maximum Wait Time targets – increasing the proportion of patients who are waiting less than the NSP maximum wait time targets to 90%; and
  • Waiting List Volume – reducing the overall waiting list volume by almost 6% by year-end.

It is important that these targets are contextualised based on projected activity rates for 2024. In 2023, the overall removals target was exceeded by 5%, with over 1.74 million patients removed from hospital waiting lists. The 2024 WLAP expects to remove even more patients this year and is projecting that over 1.81 million patients will be removed from hospital waiting lists by the end of December 2024.

However, the rate of additions to the waiting list in 2024 is also projected to further increase beyond the levels experienced last year. The rate of additions in 2023, was 8% higher than targeted in the 2023 WLAP and over 12% higher than the rate of additions seen in 2022. For 2024, the HSE are projecting that the rate of additions will be approximately 5% higher than experienced in 2023.

Despite the increased rate of additions, the 2024 WLAP aims to deliver more removals this year compared to 2023, which would ultimately result in a reduction in the overall waiting list from 671,413 in January to 632,086 by the end of December 2024 (a reduction of approximately 39,000 people).

Minister Donnelly also noted that:

“The progress delivered over the last number of years, both in terms of reducing waiting times for patients and our waiting lists overall, was achieved against the backdrop of significantly increased demand for scheduled care services.

“Delivering the targets in this year’s Action Plan, will be underpinned by further increased activity in our hospitals.

“As such, I would like to thank healthcare staff for their huge efforts that enabled the significant improvements in waiting times and waiting lists to be realised to-date and for their continued commitment to addressing this challenge again in 2024.”

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