Forth Valley takes action on outpatient waiting times

Health minister Jeane Freeman on a previous visit to Forth Valley Royal Hospital
Health minister Jeane Freeman on a previous visit to Forth Valley Royal Hospital

Forth Valley NHS has launched a “waiting list recovery plan” after figures revealed almost a third of people in the area waiting for an outpatient appointment had not been seen within 12 weeks.

The latest statistics from ISD (Information Services Division) Scotland show just 70.7 per cent of those waiting for an outpatient appointment were seen within 12 weeks in the quarter ending December 2018.

That figure had slumped from 79.1 per cent in the previous quarter, still way below the government target of 95 per cent.

A spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley told The Falkirk Herald that they have now begun to implement a waiting times recovery plan, with the Scottish Government, and that the outpatient list is now “improving significantly”.

She added: “Priority is being given to patients who have been waiting the longest and we are seeing people in date order, unless there is a clinical reason for a more urgent appointment.

“This has meant a slight reduction in the number of patients we have been able to see who have been waiting 12 weeks or less.”

NHS Forth Valley’s performance in patients ‘seen’ was the fourth lowest among health boards in the quarter.

Scottish Conservative MSP Alison Harris said the long waiting times were only part of the picture locally and she criticised the funding that NHS Forth Valley receives from the Scottish Government.

Ms Harris said: “The fall in new outpatient waiting times performance for patients seen is worrying, considering most boards either performed better, or showed signs of improving on the previous quarter.

“It remains the case that NHS Forth Valley receives lower funding per head than most health boards, and it still receives lower funding than the Scottish Government’s own target states it should.

“After over a decade of mismanagement by the SNP, the hard-working staff and patients across our NHS deserve better.”

However, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the local health board budget had increased significantly.

She told The Falkirk Herald: “NHS Forth Valley’s budget will amount to £527 million next year, having increased by 23 per cent above inflation under this government.

“The UK Government has reduced Scotland’s budget by 6.5 per cent in real terms since 2010/11, despite this we’ve increased funding for frontline health services by over 13 per cent over this time.”

The government insists population level is only one of the factors taken into account by the Scottish Government when allocating funding to NHS Boards.

Other key factors include relative deprivation and need for healthcare of different Board areas, all of which are reflected in budgets.

The Scottish Government has committed an additional £1.5 billion over an eight-year period to those NHS boards below their NRAC parity levels, and this has now brought all Boards within 0.8 per cent of parity.”

Forth Valley’s waiting time recovery plan is part of a national initiative, launched by health secretary Jeanne Freeman last week at the Golden Jubilee Hospital.

The first tranche of funding – almost £27 million nationally – will increase workforce, purchase new equipment and create additional clinics at weekends.

The Golden Jubilee will use some of this additional investment to install a new CT scanner. This will help them to double capacity, allowing an extra 10,500 procedures in the next financial year.

Ms Freeman said: “There is currently a concerted effort across Scotland to reduce a backlog of long waits for patients, and once these cases have been addressed I expect to see overall performance improve.”