Two NHS Lothian employees suspended after investigation into waiting times

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Two staff members at NHS Lothian have been suspended while an investigation is carried out into allegations that figures for waiting times had been altered to meet targets.

NHS Lothian said the disciplinary procedure was launched as part of a “critical incident review” into the allegations, revealed by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.   Ms Sturgeon has ordered further investigations into the management culture in the health board, saying some staff felt they were under undue pressure from management to find “tactical solutions” to waiting times rather than tackle the problem.

NHS Lothian director Alan Boyter said: “Based on its emergent themes, steps have been taken today to suspend two members of staff pending further investigation.  We are actively reviewing our management arrangements and have already reduced these by 80, streamlining our management to improve communications.

“We do not tolerate any form of bullying and harassment and this is monitored by annual surveys.”

Ms Sturgeon revealed the findings of the independent report on Wednesday and spoke of her “disappointment and considerable anger” at its findings.  She promised that she would not tolerate the manipulation of waiting times figures by health board management and staff.  

It came to light last October that some patients were being referred to Northumberland for treatment.  When they declined, they were not included on a list of patients waiting more than the target of 18 weeks for treatment.  A total of 1,234 people were referred for care in Northumberland, however the NHS said all had now received treatment.

Ms Sturgeon said the “unacceptable practices” had now ended in Lothian.