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English ordered electives manipulation

30 March 2006

Letter shows English ordered electives manipulation

Former Minister of Health Bill English ordered public hospitals to manipulate elective surgery thresholds in order to conceal growth in waiting lists, a letter released by Health Minister Pete Hodgson today shows.

"The Labour-led government's reforms of the elective surgery system have been built on the need for transparency and fairness for patients and their families," Pete Hodgson said. "That's why we publish elective surgery statistics every month and why we believe that patients who cannot reasonably expect treatment deserve straight answers from their DHBs.

"The letter I'm releasing today shows that under the National government political appearances were more important than the fair treatment of patients."

The letter – written by Bill English to the country's top health administrators in September 1997 – expresses concern about growing 'backlogs' in the electives system and instructs hospitals to stop growth in waiting lists by continually adjusting treatment thresholds.

In the letter English states that thresholds will be:

"…adjusted from time-to-time to ensure that no backlogs or waiting lists emerge."

He also says that hospital managers have a "responsibility" to control the number of people waiting for surgery by either manipulating thresholds or by spending more money on procedures. He goes on to note, however, that no extra funding would be provided by the government.

"Bill English sent a clear message about his expectations," Pete Hodgson said. "He could not politically handle backlogs and was willing to put appearances ahead of patients.

"What's worse is that he was willing to use the public servants who run our hospitals to advance his political agenda – forcing them to put politics ahead of quality health care."

Bill English's letter - Waiting Times Fund and Booking System Policy


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