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Too Much Political Spin In Waiting Times Report

“Too Much Political Spin In Waiting Times Report; Negative Longer-Term Access Trends Buried”

“There is still too much political spin in the latest quarterly waiting times report because it highlights positive immediate trends but buries longer-term negative trends over access to treatment in the mass of data,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today.

“On the positive side there was increased activity once patients were assessed. More patients are having their operations within the six-month target. But it must be remembered that this was for the last three months of last year when funding for elective surgery was at its highest.”

“But the report fails to highlight worrying trends buried in the report’s data. These concern access to important surgery with significant increases in the number of patients waiting for their first specialist assessment and then, after this assessment, being denied access to essential treatment.”

“The following points highlight the worrying trends about increasing problems of access to services:
1. Over the three month period the number of outpatients seen fell by over 8,000 patients, a fall of 7%.
2. Halfway through the 2000-2001 year the report suggests a decrease of about 33,000 (10%) in the number of new referrals receiving their first specialist assessment within six months compared with the full 1999-2000 year.
3. Following their specialist assessment there has been a small increase of 578 (nearly 2%) in the number of patients being denied access to treatment. This includes an increase of over 5,700 patients (31%) requiring active monitoring that is partially offset by a decrease in the number of patients on another list known as residual.”

“These and other figures reveal an overall disturbing trend of an increasing number of patients being denied access to important hospital treatment at a time last year when funding was at its peak.”

“We should all be seriously worried over what impact the severe financial squeeze on public hospitals will have announced in the ‘bad news for health’ Budget,” concluded Mr Powell.

Ian Powell

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