Scottish outpatient waits are still going up like a rocket but tackling them effectively will pile further pressure on the higher profile treatment time guarantee
The dramatic rise in Scottish waiting times continues unabated, according to the latest figures released by Information Services Division Scotland. The main problem is the explosive growth in long waiting outpatients.
Waiting times went up sharply in the quarter to June, following a seasonal lull, with the number of ongoing over 12 week waiters up 176 per cent year on year. This was fuelled by a 12 per cent year on year growth in the total size of the outpatient waiting list because a longer queue means longer waits, and more long waiting patients at the margin.
Efforts are being made both centrally and locally to tame spiralling outpatient waits by holding extra clinic sessions.
But many of those extra outpatients turn out to need treatment, and get added to the inpatient and day case waiting lists. This makes it even more difficult to achieve the higher profile treatment time guarantee (TTG), which is a legally binding commitment in Scotland that no inpatient or day case will wait longer than 12 weeks.
It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the number of inpatients and day cases waiting longer than 12 weeks was up 91 per cent year on year, fuelled by a 5 per cent year on year growth in the total number of such patients on the waiting list.
The trouble is that growing waiting lists have to be tackled twice. Once, recurringly, to stop them from growing any further. And again, non-recurringly, to bring them back to a size where waiting times are acceptable.
The unabated rise in Scottish outpatient waits suggests that – despite the efforts so far – this recovery process has not yet begun. And when it does, the pressure on inpatient and day case waits will rise accordingly.
Rob Findlay is founder of Gooroo Ltd and a specialist in waiting time dynamics