Lothian hospital wait times continue to soar

NHS Lothian is 'trying very hard to fix the problem'. Picture: Greg Macvean
NHS Lothian is 'trying very hard to fix the problem'. Picture: Greg Macvean
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WAITING times are continuing to spiral out of control in Lothian – despite millions being spent to halt the crisis.

A raft of measures including hiring new staff, boosting theatre slots, bringing in private medical teams to work in NHS hospitals and sending thousands of patients into the private sector, have so far failed to halt the increase.

New figures for March this year revealed a near threefold rise in the number of inpatients waiting beyond a 12-week target for treatment, with cases up from 148 to 574 from the same period last year.

The number waiting too long to be seen as outpatients has also gone up by more than 1500 patients to 8602, with most people having to wait an average of 89 days for routine appointments such as initial consultations, follow-ups and physio – ten days more than the average four years ago.

Earlier this year, health chiefs unveiled a £60 million blueprint to target crippling waiting lists that have plagued NHS Lothian for several years.

But the latest revelations heap fresh pressure on NHS Lothian over its management of waiting lists, and follows the recent report by Audit Scotland naming the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary as one of the worst performing hospitals at missing A&E targets for patients to be seen within four hours. Margaret Watt, of the Scotland Patients Association, said it was another indication of how stretched the service has become.

She said: “NHS Lothian is trying very hard to fix it. They’re pumping money into it but somehow the problem is getting deeper and deeper. There’s a lot of disgruntled staff and patients out there that just can’t see an end to it. Something is broken but no-one knows how to fix it.”

Scottish Labour health spokesman Neil Findlay called for Health Minister Alex Neil to quit. He said: “When these figures are put together with the struggling A&E waiting times, we see a health service which is struggling to cope.”

Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “Standards are slipping on this issue, and it’s time for the SNP to match its words with action.”

Jim Crombie, the director of scheduled care brought in to bring down excessive waits for NHS treatment, said the board was on track to deliver targets outlined in the Delivering for Patients strategy. He said cutting waits was a “key priority”.

He said: “Since January 2014, we have achieved or exceeded our projected monthly position and we remain fully focused on securing a sustainable waiting time by March 2015. We are investing around £18m in 2014 to increase our NHS infrastructure to support reduced waiting times for our patients.

“Our approach is about making sure we can deliver our targets safely.”

kate.pickles@edinburghnews.com