Hospital waiting list holds steady for Central Lancashire patients

The NHS had a target to stop the hospital waiting list getting any longer
The NHS had a target to stop the hospital waiting list getting any longer

A target to ensure the hospital waiting list for patients in Central Lancashire has not grown over the past twelve months looks set to be met.

Local areas were told by national NHS bosses that the number of patients waiting for pre-planned procedures at the end of March should be no higher than at the same point in 2018.

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But the measure was almost missed because of a wrangle between the area’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and NHS England over which patients should be included in the tally - with the final outcome going in favour of the local organisations.

The issue had arisen because of the introduction of a new service part-way through the year which enabled patients suffering from musculo-skeletal problems to access a new rapid service which was not led by a hospital consultant.

But because around one in ten of those individuals could still have ended up being treated by a senior medic, NHS England had previously insisted that they should appear on the CCGs’ waiting lists.

That would have resulted in an additional 4,600 patients being registered as waiting this month. A comparable patient group would not have shown up in the statistics for last year, as the new service had not yet been established.

With just days until the end of the month, NHS England agreed that the musculo-skeletal patients could be accounted for differently, eliminating the apparent increase which would have been recorded otherwise.

That means the waiting list for patients living in Central Lancashire should come in below the 24,685 recorded in March 2018. The final data will be confirmed in the coming weeks.

Helen Curtis, director of performance for the two CCGs, said the service which had caused the dispute was an example of “doing the right thing for patients”.

A meeting of the two organisations also heard that the number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment had dropped from 65 in December 2018 to 28 this month - but that still exceeds an effective target of zero for the number of people having to spend so long on the waiting list.

The CCGs are overseeing an improvement plan at the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals to eliminate year-long waits, which includes sourcing alternative providers for their treatment.

The two GP-led groups will also end the finanicial year with their books balanced, the meeting was told.