AN MSP has claimed that Lothian hospital patients are being booted off waiting lists after being given unreasonable offers of treatment – more than a year after a similar practice was exposed.
The original waiting list scandal erupted after NHS Lothian was found to be offering unrealistic appointments in the north of England to patients, who were then not included in waiting list figures if they did not take them up.
Labour’s Dr Richard Simpson has revealed that he has been in recent contact with a patient who was kicked off a waiting list after she declined two appointments in Glasgow – at times and dates which she had already informed doctors she would not be able to attend.
On Saturday, the Evening News revealed that a senior boss at NHS Lothian had been sacked over the previous waiting list and bullying scandals. Jane Todd, who was director of operations at the health board, intends to appeal her dismissal.
Dr Simpson, a former GP and consultant, said while he did not think health board staff were deliberately manipulating figures as they had done in the past, the practice was having a severe impact and was widespread.
NHS Lothian said it was not aware of the case and had been unable to identify any examples of what Dr Simpson described.
The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP said: “The patient is the sole carer for her 92-year-old mother, who needs someone with her all the time. She asked at her first outpatient appointment for the appointment to be delayed to mid-December, after which her brother is returning from France to help with her mother’s care.
“What happens? She gets two phone calls from a private hospital in Glasgow offering her two appointments for 8am when she cannot possibly attend and totally contravenes her stated wishes at her first appointment.
“[She is told] ‘Sorry, you’ve had your two appointments, you’re off the list, go back to your GP and be re-referred.’ The GP is livid and she has quoted me three other cases of the same thing occurring in Lothian.”
NHS Lothian considers any appointment within a 97-minute drive from the centre of Edinburgh a “reasonable” offer of treatment, but had said anyone who declines an operation outside Lothian will be offered a local appointment.
The Midlothian resident, who did not wish to be named, had specifically requested local treatment as she has trouble travelling, according to Dr Simpson.
He said: “The woman’s case is just an example. It’s not an isolated case. They’re ignoring patient choice. If that lady wanted to be seen locally she should have been.
“It’s almost exactly the same thing as when patients were offered appointments in Northumbria. But this is happening now. It’s absolutely current. It demonstrates the system is still not patient-centred and is very bureaucratic.”
Andrew Jackson, associate director for strategic planning and modernisation for NHS Lothian, said: “We do not have details of the person whose case was highlighted and I would urge any patients to contact NHS Lothian directly if they have any concerns so that we can investigate these matters properly.
“When we established the extra capacity in Glasgow we agreed that patients who refused appointments outwith Lothian would not be removed from the waiting list and would subsequently be offered an alternative appointment.
“We would therefore be surprised if this was the case.”