Waiting lists ‘million times better’ - health chief

Jim Crombie pledged to 'terminate' waiting lists in February 2014. Picture: Getty
Jim Crombie pledged to 'terminate' waiting lists in February 2014. Picture: Getty
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A HEALTH boss who wanted to “kick waiting lists to death” has hailed the progress made – but admitted failing to hit his ambitious targets.

Jim Crombie, chief officer of acute services, came in 14 months ago to slash the backlog of thousands of patients who were waiting more than 12 weeks for an operation at NHS Lothian.

Jim Crombie, nicknamed The Terminator. Picture: Contributed

Jim Crombie, nicknamed The Terminator. Picture: Contributed

Nicknamed “The Terminator” – due to his fearsome approach to waiting lists – Mr Crombie pledged to reduce the number of patients waiting for inpatient and outpatient treatment to zero by last month, in line with the Scottish Government’s 12-week Treatment Time Guarantee.

The former nurse said he was “irritated” the board had missed his deadline but said the backlog had been brought down to 2500 outpatients from 6500 at its worst point. The number of inpatients waiting more than 12 weeks has also fallen from 1200 to 450.

Mr Crombie said: “I would cite the fact that five or six years ago people would have waited 18 months for an MRI, people would have waited two years for a hip replacement.

“We have really eradicated that. Whilst I am absolutely irritated that we are not below 12 weeks, we are a million times better than we were.”

A raft of new measures were brought in such as conducting pre-planned operations at weekends, sending patients to the Golden Jubilee at Clydebank, and using private sector specialists to support NHS staff.

Mr Crombie said these measures will continue but the key issue was that he had not anticipated the “two icebergs” in his path – recruitment of key staff and bed-blocking. Attempts to recruit 12 crucial anesthetic staff members stalled, while bed-blocking was causing surgeries to be cancelled on the day.

However, Mr Crombie said all the crucial positions had now been filled and he was “optimistic” that this would start to filter down to help clear the backlog of patients by the end of the year. NHS Lothian is working closely with the Scottish Government and the city council to resolve bed-blocking.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the city’s health leader, said: “Jim is right to identify delayed discharges as an ongoing challenge. It is something that’s been an issue in Edinburgh for some time.

“There are a whole number of reasons behind it but there is a lot of momentum and focus on getting people out of hospital as soon as possible.”