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Continued Improvements In Elective Services

Waiting time for elective services continue to improve, according to the Elective Services First Quarterly Report released by the Ministry of Health today. The report covers progress in the first quarter of this financial year ? 1 July to 30 September 2001.

The report shows that over 366,800 people received outpatient services in the first quarter. Of those referred for a specialist assessment, 85 percent were seen within the Government's six month minimum standard. This is a 15 percent improvement on the previous year. Some District Health Boards such as Taranaki, Whanganui, Otago, Lakes and Canterbury saw over 90 percent of their patients within six months.

In quarter one 2001/02, 25,022 patients received elective inpatient treatment. This was a decrease of 898 compared with the first quarter of the previous year but an increase of 1,404 over the number treated in 1999/00. Preliminary data indicates that the slight dip in elective procedures continues into the second quarter.

The number of surgical procedures reached an all time high last year, and funding remains at a similar level this year. The Government is committed to maintaining a similarly high level of service and it is expected that District Health Boards will give this important health service appropriate priority.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Andrew Holmes said progress this quarter has been pleasing, with a slight decrease (1.5 percent) in the number of patients waiting longer than six months for treatment. There was a 44 percent drop in the numbers waiting greater than two years in this same period.

Dr Holmes said the sector had worked hard to ensure all patients have a plan of care and certainty of treatment status. At the end of the quarter, 14,109 patients remained on the residual waiting lists (down from 18,363 in quarter one 2000/01) without certainty or a plan of care. While this is a significant decrease, some DHBs, notably Counties Manukau have added patients to their lists. The Ministry has been assured that this is currently being rectified. On the other hand, a number of DHBs including Capital and Coast, Hawke's Bay, MidCentral, and Waitemata have completely retired their residual waiting lists.

"Hospitals need up-to-date information about these long wait patients to ensure they receive appropriate care. Therefore, many have been referred to their GPs for an updated assessment, while others have been placed in active review to ensure they receive regular clinical review.

"Active review represents good clinical practice and enhanced continuity of care whereby all patients are scheduled for review within six months. This review is carried out with the oversight of a hospital specialist. Currently, there are 25,506 patients in active review, although this figure is expected to decrease as patients are reassessed and placed in more appropriate care categories.

Momentum within the sector continues to drive towards achieving the Government's policy objectives for electives services. Increasingly, gains from work with primary care will flow through to improved timeliness for specialist assessments and the secondary sector will continue to work to ensure patients receive assessment and treatment in a timely manner.

The next quarterly report is planned to be the last in this paper-based, manually compiled format. Information systems have now improved to the point that automated monthly updates of most of the data are possible. These monthly updates will be published on the Ministry of Health website. As a first step, spreadsheets have been placed on the website showing surgical performance against service agreements for the six months to 31 December 2001.


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