National plan on healthcare waiting lists being studied by the Government: the announcement by Minister Schillaci

The Minister of Health promises a new national plan to reduce waiting lists endlessly in Italian hospitals. The announcement by the head of the department, Orazio Schillaci, arrived during question time in the Chamber on the topic of the structural problems of the NHS, during which he announced the establishment of a work table to cut the interminable queues for accessing healthcare services.

The national waiting list plan

The new 2024-2026 Plan, Schillaci assured, represents “a guidance tool regarding access to healthcare services and management of times and waiting lists with a common commitment to convergence on complex and detailed actions, based on the promotion of principle of appropriateness in its clinical, organizational and prescriptive dimensions”.

In his speech to the Chamber, the minister also addressed the issue of staffing gaps, linked to waiting lists: “The abolition of the spending cap for hiring will be done by this Government. The increase in interventions to protect the safety of staff is the responsibility of this Government – Schillaci assured – The blocking of true privatization or the scandal of paid doctors is the responsibility of this Government. And this government is also responsible for establishing a working group of experts for the protocols to be followed on services and therefore on waiting lists. We don’t just rely on serious cases taken in bulk but we look for finally structural solutions” (here we talked about the objective of cutting waiting lists envisaged by the 2024 budget).

“The previous spending containment measures, with the sole exception of the pandemic parenthesis – highlighted the minister – and the hiring constraints have inevitably led to a strong deterioration in working conditions which has made the NHS increasingly less attractive. This determines that, more and more frequently, to guarantee the minimum functionality of services, NHS companies resort to forms of outsourcing of services, known as the phenomenon of token operators“.

Speaking of a “Health system swamped by years of incorrect planning, by buffer measures without a strategy and by a frequent inability to spend funds on the part of many Regions”, Schillaci claimed a refinancing of the operational plans for the reduction of the lists of expected, for which the Regions will be able to use a quota not exceeding 0.4 percent of the level of indistinct financing, for an amount, in 2024, of 520 million euros.

The monitoring node

The objectives of the working table convened by the Minister of Health also include annual monitoring on the connection of the diaries of all public and private structures through the single booking centre. Schillaci guaranteed, in fact, that the verification activity “proceeds and it is expected that with this new plan it will be implemented with a direct connection to the regional Cups to obtain objective and timely data”.

Last November, commenting on the data from the Agenas investigation on the matter, Schillaci himself had admitted the “long-standing and painful problem” of the lack of a “real and effective system for monitoring waiting lists”.

The study by the National Agency for Regional Health Services at the end of 2023 depicted a less bleak picture than expected, but they only responded to the appeal 13 out of 21 regions. An insufficient participation which inevitably spoiled the final results of the monitoring, resulting in a chaotic scenario in the Italian healthcare system (here we talked about the Aris alarm about the doubling of waiting list times).