Covid Scotland: Tell patients how long they might wait for treatment, government urged

The Scottish Government has been urged to tell patients in Scotland how long they could expect to wait for treatment on the NHS.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats called on the government to “write to each patient” with information based on average and longest waiting times in their local area.

Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton branded the government’s current Treatment Time Guarantee that care will start within 12 weeks “worthless”.

It comes amid spiralling waiting times for treatments across the country as health boards have been forced to delay procedures over high demand and staffing shortages.

A nurse wearing an FFP3 face mask works on a patient in a critical care unit. Picture: PA Media

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Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour health spokesperson, said long waiting lists were creating a “two-tier” health system as wealthier patients can afford to pay for earlier treatment.

According to Public Health Scotland, in the quarter ending September 30, 71 per cent of patients were treated within 12 weeks, compared to 77 per cent for those seen in 2019.

The list of patients still waiting for treatment on September 30 was seven per cent higher than the previous quarter, and 38 per cent higher than the average across 2019.

Mr Cole-Hamilton also called for a a Patients’ Commissioner to advocate for patients by helping to shape and direct their complaints.

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The government “should be moving heaven and earth” to cut waiting times to 12 weeks, he said.

“I believe that governments should treat people like grown-ups. That’s why rather than delivering letters which tell patients that their treatment should start within twelve weeks, the government should also include the average and longest waiting times in your area for your procedure. People deserve to know the reality,” he said.

Ms Baillie said: “The evidence is clear – the SNP’s catastrophic failure to re-mobilise the NHS is creating a two-tier health system in Scotland and leaving thousands living in pain.

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She added: “Our NHS is overheating, staff are at breaking point and A&E services are in disarray.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “More than two million inpatients and day cases have benefited from the 12-week treatment target since it was introduced – however, the pandemic has had an impact on the length of wait for many patients.

“This is why we developed the NHS Recovery Plan, setting out plans and ambitions for the next five years, backed by more than £1 billion of funding.”

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