Waiting list shame at Sheffield Hospitals

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MORE than 1,000 patients in Sheffield have been waiting over a year for hospital procedures, new Department of Health figures reveal, writes Ben Spencer.

The average waiting time at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is just eight weeks - in line with Government targets - but the number of people who are waiting than 52 weeks for procedures has steadily risen.

In September, 1,162 patients had been waiting more than 52 weeks for procedures at the trust’s five hospitals - the Northern General, Royal Hallamshire, Weston Park, Jessop Wing and Charles Clifford.

The numbers have jumped from 895 in July and 1,115 in August.

The Star can also reveal the trust is struggling to hit Government targets for cutting £40m from its budget this year.

A Department of Health report on year-long waiting lists puts Sheffield Teaching Hospitals behind just only three others across the country - St George’s in London with 5,072, Kingston in Surrey with 2,968 and Royal United Bath with 1,447.

But Sheffield hospital bosses said the national comparison could be misleading - and blamed them on the introduction of a new computer system.

They said some of those on the waiting list had ‘paused’ care plans - either because they were too sick for treatment or were awaiting extremely specialised care - but a new system introduced six months ago is including these cases when it should not be.

But the hospitals’ own figures also show waiting lists are growing.

Chief executive Sir Andrew Cash’s report to the trust’s governors showed at the end of August there were 29,000 patients on waiting lists - up from 24,000 five months earlier.

Waiting lists for outpatients had risen from 15,650 at the end of March to 19,703 at the end of August. In the same period the number of inpatients waiting for procedures jumped from 8,311 to 9,266.

And people confined to hospital were waiting longer than before. Between the end of July and the end of August inpatients waiting more than five weeks for an operation rose by nearly 1,000 - from 5,982 to 6,934.

The trust is continuing to hit Government targets of 95 per cent of patients being treated within 18 weeks of referral, but Sir Andrew said: “This has been a challenge - particularly in terms of admitted patients.

“The 95th percentile performance for 18 weeks has deteriorated and although within the national standard, is a cause for concern requiring recovery plans in some surgical specialities.”

In August five out of 18 departments failed to hit the target - orthopaedics, urology, neurosciences, general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery.

Richard Parker, deputy chief operating officer, said: “We have recently changed our patient administration computer system which may have resulted in a higher number of patients being reported as not having their treatment completed than there is in reality. This may have an impact on the numbers highlighted in this report.”

AVERAGE (MEAN) WAITING TIMES

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals - 8.3 weeks

Sheffield Children’s Hospital - 9.0 weeks

Rotherham Hospital - 5.5 weeks

Barnsley Hospital - 10.4 weeks

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals - 9.1 weeks