Holidays blamed as measures to cut NHS waiting times stall

ATTEMPTS to cut the number of patients waiting too long for treatment in the Lothians stalled during April, NHS Lothian has said.

The number of staff on holiday over Easter and the fact that the health board is still trying to agree terms with private hospitals for taking on NHS patients were blamed for the lack of progress.

When the backlog peaked earlier this year, at least 7000 people were waiting for treatment for longer than Scottish Government targets.

NHS Lothian said the position was already improving by March, when 2680 inpatients had been waiting longer than the target of nine weeks from their first consultant appointment to treatment. At the same time, 4042 outpatients had been waiting longer than the target of 12 weeks.

Now NHS Lothian has admitted that the situation did not improve in April. A paper due to be submitted to its board said: “Provisional information indicates that the number of patients exceeding stage of treatment timescales remained constant over the month.

“This stalling of progress is obviously a serious concern and it suggests that the management of the backlog through additional short-term activity measures will take a period of time to have maximum effect.”

The backlog was uncovered when it was discovered that NHS Lothian staff had been wrongly suspending patients from waiting lists to try and hit targets, a practice branded a “betrayal” of patients by Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon.