£3m to help NHS Lothian waiting times

NHS Lothian is to be given £3 million to help hit waiting-time targets after it was listed among five NHS authorities to miss a key target for treatment waiting times during the final month of 2014.

Waiting times in NHS Lothian are an ongoing problem. Picture: Greg Macvean

Under Scottish Government targets, 90 per cent of patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral to treatment in each individual health board area.

The Scotland-wide figure showed that 89.2 per cent of patients were reported as being seen within 18 weeks of referral to treatment. Figures for October and November were 89.8 per cent and 88.4 per cent respectively.

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Health boards which did not meet the 90 per cent standard in December were NHS Lothian, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley and NHS Grampian.

A 12-week guarantee for patients due for planned inpatient or day treatment was also met for 97.1 per cent of people across Scotland – a dip from 97.3 per cent on the previous quarter.

Of the 2342 patients who were not treated within 12 weeks, 45.9 per cent were seen in NHS Lothian.

Meeting waiting-time targets has been a perennial problem for Edinburgh’s health authority. The figures emerged after the Scottish Government announced the first allocation from its £31.5m performance fund to frontline services.

The £10m allocation is targeted at boards needing extra support to deliver on waiting-times targets including the 12-week patient treatment time guarantee as well as diagnostic and outpatient waiting times.

As part of this, NHS Lothian is to receive up to £3m.

Jim Crombie, director of scheduled care, NHS Lothian, said: “I would apologise to any patients who have waited longer than they should for treatment, but I would reassure them that reducing waiting times continues to be a key priority for NHS Lothian.

“We have set out our commitments to patients for the years ahead and explained how we plan to reshape our services to increase internal, core capacity to help us continue to provide more effective, patient-centred care. However it will take time to increase that capacity, infrastructure and staff and this vital funding will help continue that process.”

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jenny Marra said patients were being “let down” in Lothian by a lack of support from ministers, who she accused of failing to get to grips with a waiting list “crisis”.

Dr Jean Turner, executive director of the Scotland Patients Association, said the findings were “disappointing” and called for more specialist staff in hospitals.

She said: “It’s increasingly difficult to meet targets and we ought to look at whether these targets should be revised, as so often they are set to satisfy politicians rather than patients.

“It’s not good enough if patients have to wait longer than the 18 weeks, especially if it is for a serious condition and it might mean we have to employ more health professionals.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said that the overall picture showed that NHS boards had delivered key improvements in patient waiting times.

She said: “Health boards across Scotland continue to deliver some of the lowest waiting times on record. However, much more needs to be done and we are committed to getting the right structures in place to ensure everyone is seen within the target time.”