Published on 24/01/2014
Patients in England cannot rely on waiting time information for elective surgery with an average over-recording time of three weeks per patient, a watchdog says.
There are roughly 3 million people on NHS waiting lists
The National Audit Office (NOA) reviewed 650 cases across seven trusts in NHS England and concluded that there was incorrect and inconsistent recording of waiting times by more than half of them. The watchdog was unable to ascertain whether this was deliberate or not.
In 202 cases out of the 650 reviewed, waiting times had not been supported by evidence strong enough to confirm their validity. In a further 167 cases there was “evidence of at least one error, leading to under and over-recording of waiting time". The average time was under-recording of three weeks per patient.
The review has dampened the reliability of the NHS waiting-times and called into question whether the NHS is really meeting their waiting-time targets.
In England alone there are more than 19 million referrals for elective (non-urgent) operations each year.
Patients are meant to be treated within 18 weeks from referral and waiting list targets are being met by NHS England but the report states there is increasing pressure on waiting times. The report also encourages NHS England to examine their data so that statistics become more reliable and accurate in the future.
"We firmly believe it is essential to have accurate information provided in a timely way to ensure better care for patients," said NHS England's director of policy and strategy, Bill McCarthy.
A spokeswoman for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "It's crucial that reporting is always accurate, and we will work with the NHS to make sure hospital staff get the support they need to get this right."
Health insurance can let you and your loved ones bypass lengthy NHS waiting lists and get access to private medical health care when you need it the most.
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