Criticism Of Waiting Times For Treatment

27 November 2018, 14:42 | Updated: 27 November 2018, 14:43

NHS

The number of patients waiting longer than the Scottish Government's legally binding 12-week target time for treatment has increased by more than 120% in two years, according to new figures.

Over the period July to September, there were 18,278 people for whom the treatment time guarantee (TTG) was breached compared to 8,249 in the same period in 2016, ISD Scotland statistics show.

In NHS Grampian, the 12 week TTG - which covers those needing inpatient or day treatment in hospital - was only met for 55.3% of patients, the lowest of any board in Scotland over the quarter.

Across the country 72.9% of patients were treated within this time, down from 74.3% in the three months to the end of June, and well below the 89% for whom the standard was met in the July to September 2016.

When added together with figures from the rest of this year, Labour said the Scottish Government's guaranteed 12-week waiting time for treatment had been broken an "astonishing" 53,396 times in 2018 so far.

Health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: "Every time this law is broken it leaves a patient in pain or distress waiting to get the treatment they deserve."

She added: "Staff are at breaking point because the SNP Government has mismanaged our health service for over a decade.

"The forthcoming budget must give our NHS staff the resources they desperately need."

The figures, from the statistical division of the NHS in Scotland, were released at the same time as data showed more people were waiting longer than 12 weeks for an outpatient appointment.

Over the period July to September, 70.5% of these patients had been waiting 12 weeks or fewer, compared to 75.1% the previous quarter.

Other figures showed a fall in the the number of people being treated within 18 weeks of being referred to hospital.

The Scottish Government's referral to treatment target time should be met for 90% of patients but in September this was achieved for 81.2%.

Only four of Scotland's regional health boards met the 90% standard, with 11 failing to do so.

NHS Lothian recorded just 70.3% of patients being seen within 18 weeks.

Elsewhere, data revealed an "increasing trend" in the number of patients waiting longer than the target time of six weeks for eight key diagnostic tests.

At the end of September there were 86,052 people on the waiting list for tests, such as ultrasounds, MRI scans and CT scans - a rise of 10.6% over the year.

While nine out of 10 patients (90.1%) had tests performed within six weeks in September 2016, this had fallen to 78.1% by September 2018.

Ms Lennon said that left an "unacceptable" number of patients "waiting too long for potentially life-saving tests".

She added: "These standards are in place to ensure that people with potentially serious conditions get the benefit of early detection and have the best possible chance of a full recovery.

"Instead, the SNP Government is presiding over growing waiting lists for patients and growing pressures on our NHS staff."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Performance against the 12-week treatment time has sunk to a new low.

"This is a blow for the thousands of patients who are left waiting.

"The Government made a legally binding commitment to every single eligible patient.

"We were told it would only be rare occasions that things would go wrong. The reality is that happens for more than one in four patients and it is such a mess that the SNP don't expect to sort it until 2021."

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman announced an action plan to tackle long hospital waiting times last month, with the Scottish Government committing £850 million to this.

She said: "The improvement plan's immediate focus is to reduce waits for patients whose treatment is urgent, who have a suspicion of cancer and those who have waited the longest for an appointment.

"It sets out action to increase capacity, increase clinical effectiveness and efficiency, and design and implement new models of care.

"Our aim is that, by spring 2021, performance for outpatients waiting less than 12 weeks will be improved to 95% and for inpatients and day cases under the treatment time guarantee it will be 100%.

"Today's waiting time statistics are within the assumptions we made in the waiting times improvement plan."

Ms Freeman added there was also a "range of work underway to reduce waiting times for diagnostic tests.