Scheme was controversial from start
THE National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) was set up in 2002, when public waiting lists stood at around 30,000.
The aim was to arrange surgery for public patients in private hospitals, both here and abroad.
From the start, it was heavily criticised in some quarters because it received funding of approximately €100m a year while public hospitals struggled to balance the books.
It was argued that taxpayers should not have been paying private hospitals for operations which should be carried out in public hospitals.
However, its supporters said it was more efficient than throwing money into the "black hole" of the public hospital system.
The Government wants the system it uses -- whereby the money follows the patient -- extended to public hospitals. This would mean the hospital is paid per procedure, rather than getting a block grant. This is seen as more efficient.
But Health Minister James Reilly also wants to tackle waiting lists by setting up a special delivery unit.
This would focus on achieving maximum efficiency in the delivery of care, thereby reducing waiting lists and times.
It is based on the system established in Northern Ireland in 2006, which saw 57,000 people taken off the waiting list in just 18 months. The minister has pledged to directly oversee the results of the new unit.
Dr Reilly has made the establishment of this new unit a priority for his first 100 days in office.