HEALTH officials in Portsmouth are under fire over figures that show Queen Alexandra Hospital is the third worst in the country for meeting waiting list targets.
Government targets say 90 per cent of patients referred by GPs for hospital procedures should be seen and treated within 18 weeks. The national average stands at 90.4 per cent – showing most hospitals achieve the aim.
But the most recent figures, for August this year, show only 65.4 per cent of patients referred to QA were seen in the time frame.
It means that around a third of patients are waiting longer than they should.
The figures for August represent a new low for the hospital, which has got progressively worse at hitting the target in recent months.
In April the figure was 75.4 per cent, in May it was 74.6 and in June 71.7 per cent. Then it slipped to 69.7 per cent in July, before finally tumbling to 65.4 per cent in August.
Government figures for this target place Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust as the third worst out of 167 acute trusts.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said the figures were ‘deeply disappointing’. She added: ‘I will be writing to the hospital to ask them to give a timetable of how they will get to the 90 per cent benchmark. The figures are totally unacceptable.’
Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: ‘It’s appalling, considering the amount of resources that has been put into the hospital.
‘That only two-thirds are seen in the time frame is highly unacceptable.’
Jock Mclees, chairman of patient forum group Portsmouth Link, added: ‘This is disappointing. We have spoken to the trust about this and we hope to see them take action to meet targets.’
QA officials said the trust was performing on target for patients who do not need to be admitted to hospital for treatment, but was lagging behind for those where a hospital stay was required.
Cherry West, chief operating officer at QA, said: ‘The trust takes the treatment and care of patients seriously and is performing above the national target for non-admitted patients.
‘This means patients who do not need to stay in hospital are being referred, seen, assessed and treated within 18 weeks.
‘While the trust is below targets against the standard for admitted patients (those waiting for elective surgery), good progress is being made to address this.
‘The trust and local commissioning NHS partners have agreed to, and are working together, to treat our longest-waiting patients as a priority.
‘This has the short-term effect of lowering our performance scores, but means overall the number of patients who have waited more than 18 weeks is reducing.
‘We anticipate all patients, who had waited more than 18 weeks, will have received their treatment and we will be achieving the standard for admitted patients by the end of the year.’
Patients’ rights are part of NHS constitution
THE 18-week treatment time has been set by the Department of Health as part of the NHS constitution.
It stipulates patients have the right to start their consultant-led treatment within that time, starting from the date of referral from a GP. This is unless the patient chooses to wait longer, or it is clinically appropriate to wait.
If it is not possible to be seen within the maximum waiting time, the primary care trust (PCT) or strategic health authority that commissions treatment must investigate and offer a range of suitable alternative hospitals or community clinics that would see the patient get quicker treatment.
NHS Portsmouth is the leading PCT for Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust and a spokesman said clearing the patient backlog is a priority.
Richard Samuel, executive director for South East Hampshire clinical commissioning groups, said: ‘Our ambition is to sort this situation out by November. We are doing this in a number of ways such as increasing theatre sessions.’
Month Patients seen within 18 weeks
Sep 2010 79.4%
Oct 2010 81.5%
Nov 2010 81.2%
Dec 2010 83.4%
Jan 2011 81.8%
Feb 2011 76.7%
Mar 2011 72.3%
Apr 2011 75.4%
May 2011 74.6%
June 2011 71.7%
July 2011 69.7%
Aug 2011 65.4%
Source: Department for Health