NHS providers made a concerted effort to treat more elective patients in November, delivering more treatments than were performed in that period in any of the preceding six years.
Newly released figures from NHS England show there were 15,762 patients admitted and 43,772 outpatients treated per working day in November last year. This compares to 15,342 admitted and 41,890 outpatients treated in November 2013.
But despite this national drive, the waiting list continued to grow and at the end of the month there were more patients who had been waiting over 18 weeks to be treated than at the same point in 2013.
Early in 2014-15 the government released a £250m fund to help providers clear a large national backlog of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment. There was a temporary amnesty on meeting referral to treatment targets so that providers could treat long waiters without being fined for target breaches.
Performance against the targets shows providers put the amnesty to use with only 87.5 per cent of admitted patients starting treatment within 18 weeks, against a target of 90 per cent, and 94.8 per cent of non-admitted against a 95 per cent target.
However, the incomplete pathway target continued to be met, with 93.3 per cent of patients waiting less than 18 weeks against a 92 per cent target.
Despite the push to treat more patients, there were 199,990 patients waiting over 18 weeks to be treated at the end of November, compared to 173,649 at the same point in the previous year.
The waiting list continued to grow and NHS England estimated there were over 3.2 million patients waiting to start treatment if the eight trusts that did not submit data were included.
There has been concern at a number of trusts over the accuracy of their waiting times data.
At least seven trusts have consistently failed to report their waiting times over the past year because of failures in validating the figures.
A national initiative is underway, led by NHS England, Monitor and the Trust Development Authority, to send data validators into trusts that have a large number of patients on their waiting lists, or that have seen the number of patients waiting over 18 weeks grow significantly.
These validators will help the trusts check the accuracy of their data.
A spokesman for the TDA said: “As part of our ongoing support to ensure the local NHS is able to treat patients as quickly as possible, we are providing resource for some organisations to help with the validation of their waiting lists. NHS organisations up and down the country are striving to ensure patients get the timely care they need and this initiative will support them to make sure the data and governance that underpins this important work is as robust as it can be.”
He said a complete list of trusts that will receive this help had not yet been decided.
Lewisham and Greenwich Trust is one of the trusts that will receive this support.
A note in the trust’s January board papers said: “The tracking and validation resource, particularly at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, remains an issue. Lewisham and Greenwich Trust has been identified as one of a number of trusts in London for additional validation support through a national programme. This is being pursued with a view to support posts being in place in January for a six week period to assist with waiting list validation.”
HSJ previously reported that Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust had reported a backlog of 90,000 patients waiting for treatment. Chief executive Matthew Hopkins said at the time it was wrong to assume that the figure related to the number of patients affected. He added that there had been “issues with our data, which is why we are undertaking a validation exercise”.