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Patient receiving treatment at Newham Hospital, part of the Bart's Health NHS Trust.

Barts Health tackles waiting lists

AFTER SPENDING three years working out what was going on with its waiting list, Barts Health NHS Trust says it is now on top of its data – and that it’s giving a good service to East Londoners.

The Trust covers five well known East London hospitals: the Royal London, Mile End, Barts, Whipps Cross University and Newham University. How long patients are waiting for treatment is a very important issue for hundreds of thousands of people across East London. However, back in September 214 the Trust had to implement an urgent review of its waiting list – checking the case of everyone registered on it and building up a waiting list which it could be confident was accurate. That process has now been completed, and the Trust is reporting the following facts.

As at April 2018, 88,333 patients were waiting for routine treatment, of whom 13,988 had been waiting longer than 18 weeks.

During April, 84.2% of patients received their treatment within 18 weeks (the national standard is 92%). The Trust points out that once a patient joins the waiting list there may be tests which need doing before the treatment can be performed – so some element of waiting is inevitable.

As of April, the average time people had been waiting for treatment was just under eight weeks. However, the same month’s figures included 36 people who had been waiting over 52 weeks.

The figures show that over 80% of patients who have been referred to a consultant (the starting points from which waiting times for hospital treatments are measured) wait under the 18 weeks (the national target is that 18 weeks should be the maximum anyone has to wait for routine treatment). So far so good: but the delay of three years without an official waiting list does make it hard to work out if the waiting list is growing or declining.

Doctors have reviewed all cases of patients who had to wait over a year. They have conceded that some patients found the wait inconvenient, but overall they concluded that no patient experienced significant harm.

Chief Executive Alwen Williams said, “I am very sorry that too many patients are waiting too long for their treatment. We are determined to improve waiting times for our patients and our new improved waiting list systems will help us to do just that.

“I would like to pay tribute to the teams who have identified and fixed significant technical issues within our systems, and I am grateful for the support we have had from other organisations. It was clearly unacceptable that we weren’t able to report data for so long, but it was crucial that we got to the root of the problem and we are now confident that these significant issues have been fixed once and for all.”

The Trust has overcome a significant hurdle – but a number of issues arise as the Trust and its patients look to the future.

The Trust says its waiting list was not robust in 2014 because different parts of the Trust were using different methods of registering patients and there were no reliable procedures to remove patients from waiting lists if, for example, they were treated on an emergency basis during the wait. Why was this problem not foreseen? Why did no one put procedures in place when the Trust was set up?”

Now we have the robust figures, the burning question is whether the Trust has the procedures and systems in place – not to mention the funding – to treat the waiting patients.

Watch this space!

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