Waiting lists for visits and tests, Minister of Health Schillaci announces new decree: what changes

The Minister of Health, Orazio Schillaci, has announced an imminent decree to address one of the chronic problems of the Italian healthcare system: long waiting times for specialist visits and diagnostic tests. During the Fratelli d'Italia conference in Pescara, the minister revealed that the decree, expected within 15 dayswill introduce innovative measures at no cost to improve the efficiency of the health service.

Schillaci highlighted the urgency of this reform, citing sensational cases such as that of patients forced to wait up to a year and a half for an MRI. The lack of a national monitoring system for waiting lists has been identified as one of the main gaps: “It is essential to have a detailed control of missing services at a regional level in order to be able to intervene effectively”, explained the Minister.

Schillaci, draft of the decree ready: what it consists of

To date, the absence of a national monitoring system has prevented effective management of healthcare services. Schillaci proposes to entrust Agenas, the national health agency, with the task of monitoring the availability of medical services on a regional scale. This will allow gaps to be identified and filled more systematically.

Reduction of unnecessary medical tests and more accurate checks

Another crucial aspect of the decree concerns the reduction of unnecessary medical tests. The minister aims to improve the appropriateness of medical prescriptions, often inflated by patient pressure or doctors' fear of making mistakes. With the support of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, national guidelines will be developed to ensure that tests are prescribed only when strictly necessary.

The decree also provides for a alert system for general practitioners. This mechanism will alert regional authorities when a doctor exceeds the recommended number of prescriptions, while leaving professionals the freedom to evaluate each case individually.

This approach is based on previous initiatives, such as those of former Minister Lorenzin, which however failed to take root. The Minister underlined the collaboration with the Istituto Superiore di Sanità to develop clear and national guidelines that reduce unnecessary medical prescriptions by 20%.

Schillaci also announced plans to make it permanent criminal shield for doctors, currently in effect for this year only, to reduce the practice of overprescribing due to fear of legal consequences. Another novelty will concern the possibility for hospital companies to directly purchase services from their doctors who work as a freelancer, an attempt to increase the supply of available medical services.

Despite the ambition of the plan, Minister Schillaci recognized that the implementation of these measures depends on the availability of funds. Despite the lack of new allocations from the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Health is exploring options to directly finance doctors' private healthcare services to further reduce waiting times.

The presence of the President of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rocco Bellantone, at the Fratelli d'Italia event, and his political visibility have sparked comments in the healthcare sector. Bellantone, appointed by Schillaci, also continues to practice as a private surgeon, highlighting a mix of roles that raises, according to many, more than one question about his neutrality in such an important technical context.