Improvements have been seen in the management of NHS waiting lists, according to Audit Scotland.
In a report published today (Thursday), Audit Scotland reported on progress on the Scotland-wide review of waiting list management.
Latest waiting times figures show that In September this year, 90.9 per cent of patients whose entire journey could be measured were seen and treated within 18 weeks from initial GP referral to start of treatment.
Of the 80,205 inpatient and day cases treated in the latest quarter, 98.3 per cent of patients were treated within the legal treatment time guarantee.
The report followed the discovery of manipulation of waiting lists at NHS Lothian. It concluded that NHS boards and the Scottish Government have made good progress in improving management, monitoring and scrutiny of waiting lists, and that NHS boards are putting in place better controls and audit trails in managing waiting lists.
The report recommended that the Scottish Government should agree with NHS boards what information they should be reporting on nationally to allow monitoring of the management of waiting lists.
As a result, a core set of agreed criteria is now in place, and improvements have been made to IT systems.
It follows Audit Scotland’s last report in February which found no evidence of deliberate manipulation of waiting list figures outwith NHS Lothian, but said that the management and scrutiny of waiting lists had not been good enough across Scotland.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said:
“This report shows just how much progress has been made in improving the management of waiting lists across Scotland.
“I welcome the recognition from Audit Scotland that better controls and audit trails in IT systems are now in place, and that improved information is now being reported to non-executive members of NHS boards.
“I recognise that Audit Scotland has identified an issue with health boards not being clear on what information they are to report on, and that is why a core set of information has been agreed, and IT systems have been changed to ensure we have access to this information.
“This information, which will be gathered from early in 2014, will now provide specific information on why patient unavailability has been applied, such as for holidays or work commitments, and will enable us to monitor patient cancellations and referrals back to GPs.
“This report, and the changes that we have put in place, will give added reassurance to the public that we have taken action to ensure hospital waiting lists are open and transparent.
“In addition, we are continuing to support health boards to ensure they deliver waiting time standards and the waiting times guarantee.
“Health boards across Scotland are investing over £67 million this year in creating additional capacity to be able to treat more patients than ever.
“Let us not forget that waiting times are amongst their lowest ever levels in Scotland and they continue to improve. Health boards need to be praised for the work they have done to make sure Scottish patients are getting their treatment quicker than ever.”
Labour MP Rhoda Grant said: “Improving how waiting lists are reported and managed isn’t really much to shout about when targets are still being missed and patients are left without access to treatment.
“The only reason we even know that there was a problem here was because someone blew the whistle on the SNP’s hidden waiting times scandal.”