Fastest ever waiting times delivered by SNP

Faster treatment times are consistently being delivered across Scotland, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said today after new statistics showed all of the current national maximum waiting times standards have been effectively met.

Today's statistics, released by ISD Scotland, indicate NHSScotland is delivering against the current maximum waiting times standard of 18 weeks for a first outpatient consultation and for inpatient and day case treatment.

The statistics also show the NHS in Scotland is on track to meet the new targets for these, reducing the waiting times for both outpatient and inpatient treatment to 15 weeks by March 2009, and to meet the target to reduce the maximum wait for key diagnostic tests from nine weeks to six weeks.

This is the third quarter that waiting times have been published in a revised form - designed to provide a complete and open picture of waiting times in Scotland's hospitals. The New Ways system abolished the hidden waiting lists caused by availability status codes.

The latest published waiting times show that:

  • 99.9 per cent of patients were seen or treated within the national standards of 18 weeks for a first outpatient consultation and for inpatient or day case treatment
  • Only seven patients waited longer than nine weeks for a key diagnostic test.

During September 2008:

  • 98.2 per cent of patients attending A&E departments were seen within four hours.

Ms Sturgeon said:

"The drive to cut waiting times has only one goal: to ensure patients get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.

"I am very encouraged by the steady progress in performance which has been achieved over the last 18 months or so and pay tribute to the NHS staff who work so hard to achieve shorter waiting times. I believe this signals a positive way forward for 2009 as we continue our efforts to further reduce the time some patients can wait.

"The transparency provided by the new system means that patients are no longer on hidden waiting lists and we're all able to assess and understand much more clearly when patients can expect to receive their treatment.

"When I announced the new targets of 15 weeks to be delivered from end March 2009 I did this knowing what it means for patients. These targets are part of the overall new approach being taken to cut the time patients wait, whatever the type of treatment they require, route of referral or whether they are an inpatient, outpatient or day case patient.

"Ultimately by 2011 patients should expect a 'whole journey' maximum waiting time of 18 weeks from their initial GP referral to receiving treatment and NHS Boards are working to deliver this. This will transform NHS services for patients. Each and every step of the patient journey will be challenged to improve services."

Lothians MSP Dr Ian McKee has also welcomed the statistical announcement from
the Scottish Government.

Commenting on the figures Dr McKee
said:

"These statistics show the SNP Government is taking us in the
right direction to make a healthier Scotland. It is a very welcome development
that after years of disappointment we are delivering on waiting
times.

"The SNP pledged to make a healthier Scotland and these figures
are not only proof we are heading in that direction but also underline our
determination and desire to achieve that aim.

"These statistics are not
the finishing line and I am confident that the SNP and the Scottish Government
in conjunction with local health boards will continue to tackle waiting times
head on."

The whole journey waiting time target of 18 weeks from general practitioner referral to treatment to be delivered by December 2011 was announced by the Health Secretary in June 2007.

It was subsequently announced that, by the end of March 2009, the longest wait for a first outpatient appointment would be reduced to 15 weeks; the wait for diagnostic tests would be reduced to six weeks and the wait for inpatient or day case treatment would be reduced to 15 weeks.

New ways of defining and measuring waiting times came into effect on January 1, 2008 when availability status codes - the practice of hidden waiting lists - were abolished.

Patients who are unavailable for treatment remain on the waiting list, flagged as suspended but crucially reviewed at intervals of three months of less. They are entitled to treatment within the maximum waiting time, plus any period of unavailability.

A patient may be unavailable for medical (eg. unfit to undergo procedure) or social (eg. on holiday) reasons.

The NHS in Scotland is continuing to effectively meet national maximum waiting times standards for first outpatient consultations, hospital inpatient and day case treatment, key diagnostic tests, the diagnosis and treatment of coronary heart disease and attendance at A&E.

Eight key diagnostic tests are currently subject to the national standard of 95 per cent to be treated within nine weeks. These tests are upper endoscopy, lower endoscopy, colonoscopy, cystoscopy, barium studies, CT scans, MRI scans and ultrasound.