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Saturday 30 August 2014

Hospitals spared budget cuts but warned to slash waiting lists

Eilish O’Regan

Published 10/01/2013 | 14:31

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HOSPITALS are to be spared cuts in their budgets this year – but the funding comes with strict orders to reduce patient waiting lists.

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The hospitals have been told:

*No adult should wait more than eight months for inpatient treatment such as an operation.

*No child should endure a delay of more than 20 weeks .

*No patient should be on an outpatient list to see a specialist for more than a year .

*The vast majority of patients in hospital emergency departments should either get a bed or be discharged within six hours.

The hospital targets were unveiled by the Health Service Executive (HSE) today in its new service plan for 2013 which details how it will spend its €13.4bn budget this year.

It must generate €721m in savings which will mean cuts in services and raising income from patients, including hiking the prescription charge for medical card holders.

It will make it tougher for people to qualify for a medical card but many who lose the full benefit will qualify for a GP visit card instead.

Staffing levels in the health service in 2013 will be reduced by almost 4,000 and the expectation is that the government will introduce a voluntary redundancy scheme later this year.

The home help budget remains the same but there is no extra funding for the Fair Deal scheme which means more elderly people may end up waiting longer before getting a nursing home place.

Tony O'Brien, head of the HSE said he did not anticipate that it will have row back on services mid-year because of spending overruns.

He said :"For the first time, the allocations outlined in the plan are based on the projected spend rather than on historic budgets with a view to ensuring sustainable budgets, especially in the hospital sector which has struggled in recent years to break even.

“In 2013 the HSE continues to face the dual challenge of reducing costs while at the same time improving outcomes for patients."

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