PATIENTS in Lothian face longer waits than anywhere else in Scotland as the health board continues to miss government targets.
Figures for June show that more than 2100 patients were denied their right to prompt treatment – with the 18-week target only being met in 85.9 per cent of cases.
Health bosses claim a host of measures designed to slash delays – 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 – are making inroads into the backlog caused by the waiting times scandal. But the board continues to be the worst performing in the country, with the success rate falling from 89 per cent in the same period last year.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw slammed the delays, for treatment for anything ranging from eye surgery to physiotherapy, as “unacceptable”.
“These targets are key to improving the outcome for patients,” he said. “If they are being missed as badly as NHS Lothian manages, that is going to have a direct consequence on patient care.”
He added: “The problem has been lingering for long enough, and it’s time for the Scottish Government to get a grip on the situation.”
The health board was one of only three that failed to meet the national 90 per cent target alongside Forth Valley and Grampian – despite promises it will comply by 2015.
It follows an injection of more than £18 million in the next year to increase capacity by recruiting 80 full-time equivalent staff, including consultants, nurses and other clinical support workers in problem areas such as ear, nose and throat, ophthalmology and orthopaedics.
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack is concerned for patients and urged it to be a “wake-up call for action”.
She said: “Over the last few years, NHS Lothian has found it increasingly difficult to get close to the Government’s targets and these latest figures continue to highlight the lack of capacity at the health board.”
Former nurse Jim Crombie, brought in to tackle the issue, said reducing waits remained a “key priority”, but insisted the board was on track meet both the 12-week legal treatment time guarantee by the end of this year, and the outpatient waiting times standard by March 2015.
Mr Crombie, NHS Lothian director of scheduled care, apologised to patients, adding: “It will take time to increase capacity, infrastructure and staff and extra money and our plans will see around £18m spent in 2014-15 to support the delivery of compliant waiting times.”
NEW SICK KIDS GETS THE GREEN LIGHT FROM PLANNERS
Planning permission has been granted for the new Sick Kids hospital and Department of Clinical Neurosciences.
The council approved plans for the £150 million development next to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in Little France.
Construction work is expected to start later this year, with the hospital set to open in the summer of 2017.
Susan Goldsmith, director of finance for NHS Lothian, hailed “another major milestone”.
“The development will prove significant in shaping the future of care by bringing children’s, maternity and adult services together. It will build on the existing centre of excellence, creating a major trauma centre and providing opportunities for experience, expertise and research.”