Outpatient appointments and elective procedures in the health service nationally are to be fully restored from June, under official plans for a safe return of services that have been curtailed by Covid-19.
According to the Irish Times, cancer services will not be fully resumed until the end of this year, while 30 per cent of health appointments will be conducted on the phone or by video call, according to the three-phase plan drawn up by the HSE.
Efforts to clear the massive backlog of appointments and procedures that has built up during the pandemic are unlikely to begin until the autumn, the plan says, and will require private sector input.
It warns commitments to resume non-Covid services are “conditional on there being no further major surges and full implementation of the vaccination programme”.
The risk of flu and other respiratory conditions next winter could put plans to return to normal activity under pressure, the document also warns.
The return of services is projected to take place in three phases: March to June; July to September; and October to December.
The plan says adequate staffing is the most critical challenge to restoring services. Absenteeism is expected to decline as Covid-19 cases fall and with widespread vaccination of staff, but carried-over annual leave will impact on staffing.