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Leak reveals trust omitting two-year waits from reported figures

A hospital trust has been breaching national guidance by excluding some long waiters from its reported waiting list figures, in a move experts warned could put patient safety at serious risk.

The practice appears to have helped Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals report zero patients waiting more than two years for treatment during most of last year.

Its policy means cases that unexpectedly “pop up” as two-year waits in its datasets are temporarily removed. The trust will then review whether the cases are data errors or genuine two-year waits, and if genuine, aim to provide treatment within a month.

If not treated within a month, the cases would be added back to the reported waiting list the following month.

Rob Findlay, an expert on RTT waiting lists, said the implications of the SWBH policy are far more serious than simply reporting incomplete numbers for a month.

He said allowing a month to deal with the pop-up without declaring it “relieves them of pressure to solve the problems that are causing patients to be lost in the first place”.

He added: “Some patients – the hospital would never know – might never pop up and be lost from the waiting list forever.

“[This is] a serious patient safety issue which could potentially have a significant impact on how long patients are waiting for treatment.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 19 January 2024


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