WAITING times for treatment at Queen Alexandra Hospital are at their worst for 18 months.
Scores of patients are having to wait longer than four-and-a-half months to start treatment after being diagnosed with a condition.
The national target is for 92 per cent of people to wait 18 weeks or less from referral to starting hospital treatment.
And last December Queen Alexandra Hospital was at 90 per cent.
However in February – the most recent figures out – it slipped down to 79.9 per cent, with the urology department recording just 68.6 per cent.
In that department the average waiting time was 14.9 weeks, but some of the worst-affected were waiting 34.9 weeks.
The last time QA fell below 80 per cent was October 2013, when it was 70.8 per cent.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust (PHT), which runs QA, said February’s figure was low due to the knock-on effect of a stretched A&E department. This is because planned operations are cancelled in order to make way for emergency cases that are coming in through A&E.
A PHT spokesman said: ‘Our performance in February was affected by two major factors. The trust faced unprecedented demand from patients requiring emergency admissions.
‘Emergency patients must take priority, and we made the very difficult decision to cancel some scheduled non-urgent procedures.
‘All of these patients have since had their operations and we apologise to those patients who were affected.
‘We worked hard to make sure that during February, 95 per cent of all patients were seen within 18 weeks for their planned outpatient-based review and treatment.
‘Our performance was also affected by the work we have been doing to reduce our waiting list.
‘We have seen a reduction of more than 8,000 patients on the waiting list compared to February 2010.
‘There are now no patients waiting longer than a year, and 28 patients waiting more than six months – a reduction of nearly 2,000 patients.
‘Our performance on the RTT 18 week waits is now recognised as being among the best in the NHS.’
The Portsmouth, Gosport and Fareham and South Eastern Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), pay for services.
Alex Berry, chief commissioning officer for the CCGs, said: ‘Keeping waiting times low is a key concern for patients, and the NHS is keen to ensure nobody waits any longer than is necessary.
‘During February, PHT was working to reduce the number of people who had waited more than 18 weeks to be admitted into hospital for planned, routine care.
‘That was the right course to take – although in the short term there is inevitably an impact on waiting time figures, the expectation is PHT soon returns to normal levels of performance.’
Steve Taylor, manager of patient watchdog group Healthwatch Hampshire, said: ‘We can clearly see here how problems in A&E is having a knock-on effect. The hospital is feeling pressure everywhere.’
What ‘referral to treatment time’ is and how it works
PATIENTS have the legal right to start their NHS consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks from referral. This includes treatments where a consultant retains clinical responsibility for treatment such as general surgery, cardiology or dermatology.
The right to start treatment within 18 weeks does not apply if:
* You choose to wait longer
* If delaying the start of your treatment is in your best clinical interests, for example where stopping smoking or losing weight
* If it’s best for your condition to be monitored in secondary care without clinical intervention or diagnostic procedures
* If you fail to attend appointments you have chosen
* If the treatment is no longer necessary