PERFORMANCE: The regulator Monitor has launched an investigation into a south west acute trust due to concerns over the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for elective treatment.

Taunton and Somerset Foundation Trust has been failing the 18-week referral to treatment target for inpatients for the past year and for outpatients for the past nine months.

In a statement Monitor said its investigation had been prompted by the failure of the trust to deliver on its recovery plan.

Paul Streat, regional director at Monitor, said: “We need to find out what the problem is and how we can support the trust in its current efforts to cut waiting times.

“We are investigating the trust to find out why it isn’t meeting these targets, and if we need to take further action to make sure local patients aren’t waiting too long.” 

In August, just over 450 patients waited more than 18 weeks for inpatient treatment. Only 74.8 per cent of inpatients were treated on time, against a target of 90 per cent.

Ophthalmology treatment has been particularly problematic for the trust, with only 44 per cent of referred patients being treated within the 18 week standard in the same month.

Earlier this year the trust contracted private provider Vanguard Healthcare to perform cataract operations to help it clear a waiting list backlog.

However, the contract was ended after four days when patients treated by the company at the trust’s Musgrove Park hospital began reporting an unusually high proportion of complications.

A spokeswoman for Taunton and Somerset said the trust would work with Monitor to “fully understand all the issues” behind the poor performance.

She added: “Musgrove Park Hospital, along with many trusts in England, has seen a real surge in demand for treatment in a few very specific areas, such as ophthalmology and dermatology, in a very short period of time.

“This has meant that we haven’t been able to respond quickly enough, and be flexible in the way we can provide appointments, to meet these surges in demand. This, in part, has led to a backlog in patients waiting to be treated.”