Published: 14/07/2005, Volume II5, No. 115 Page 23

Overall waiting times for all operations have reduced significantly over the past four years.

However, just as in other procedures, there is considerable variation between strategic health authorities in performance on waiting times for cardiac surgery.

Compared with an overall reduction of 7.7 per cent in waiting times for all procedures since 2001, cardiac procedures have seen a considerably greater reduction in waiting times.

Coronary artery bypass grafting experienced the greatest decline: waiting times for complex CABG procedures fell by 43 per cent. Those including valve operations fell by 41 per cent and isolated first-time CABG by 47 per cent (see middle chart).

Other cardiac operations have experienced similar reductions in waiting times since 2001.

Waits for procedures on the plastic repair of aortic and mitral valves fell by 41 per cent and 39 per cent respectively. Waits for percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty experienced an increase of 3.1 per cent from 2001 to 2004.

Using hospital episode statistics data from the first quarter of 2005, the last chart shows the SHAs with the longest and shortest average waits for nine cardiac operations. There are considerable differences between SHAs for the same condition. On average the waiting times in SHAs with the longest wait were 4.4 times the length in SHAs with the shortest.

West Yorkshire SHA has the longest average waits for five of the procedures: CABG complex combined and repeat (167 days); CABG isolated first time (157 days); plastic repair of aortic valve (189 days); heart bypass (157 days); heart valve replacement aortic (152 days). Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire SHA has the longest average waits for the insertion of pacemaker (112 days) and the reconstruction of carotid artery (157 days). South West Peninsula SHA has the longest average waits for CABG, including valve operations (154 days) and plastic repair of the mitral valve (242 days).

The shortest waits are not so confined to certain areas. South West London SHA has the shortest average waits for CABG, including valve operations (60 days) and CABG isolated first time (56 days).

Cheshire and Merseyside SHA has the shortest waits for the plastic repair of the mitral valve (32 days) and the heart bypass operation (37 days).

West Midlands South SHA has the shortest wait for insertion of a pacemaker (20 days) and plastic repair of the aortic valve (53 days). .

Dr Marc Farr is product development manager at Dr Foster (phone 020-7330 0472 or visit www. drfoster. co. uk). The next Dr Foster page is on 28 July and will cover cancer waiting times.