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Caithness News Bulletins February 2005

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NHS Highland is bucking the national trend by reducing the number of people on NHS Waiting Lists. The publication today by the Scottish Executive of National figures on waiting times, showed that numbers on waiting lists had risen to record levels.

Roger Gibbins, Chief Executive of NHS Highland says that it is a question of continuous improvement:  "We are running evening operating sessions in Orthopaedics, Saturday lists in Ophthalmology, and additional Outpatient clinics in a number of specialties to reduce the waiting list. This is now starting to pay off as the numbers of people on the inpatient waiting list in Highland has now fallen over 2004 by almost 6%, from 5420 to 5098 at the end of December 2004. "

"The numbers of people on the waiting list waiting more than six months has also decreased from 454 to 318 at the end of December 2004, a decrease of 30 %. The numbers have since reduced even further with 252 people at the end of January 2005 waiting more than six months. The additional sessions will mean that we will slash this even further by the end of March 2005, when we forecast that the numbers waiting over six months will have fallen to 120 - a drop of 67% over the 12 months period since March 2004. No-one is currently waiting longer than nine months."

He warned that the published median waiting times should not be taken on face value: "Whilst the median waiting time for outpatient appointments in Highland of 45 days is 20% lower than the national average, the Minister is absolutely right in saying that median waits do not adequately reflect how quickly the NHS is seeing and treating patients. Some people are being seen within days, whereas some have to wait longer, depending on the urgency of their case."

Garry Coutts, Chairman of NHS Highland, praised the work of staff who had made the improvement possible:  "Let's not forget that this improvement has only been possible through the hard work of a large number of staff, pulling together to improve services for patients. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their hard work."

Mary Scanlon MSP Scathing On Scottish Waiting Lists
Speaking in response to the NHS Scotland Waiting List Figures released today, Highlands and Island MSP Mary Scanlon said; "It is shocking to hear that since the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999, there are 115,365 less outpatients and the waiting list is up by 23,550.

"The median wait for an outpatient appointment is up by 9 days; for inpatients it is up by 10 days.

"It is incredible that more taxpayers money is being spent on the NHS yet things continue to get worse, as these figures show that the total number of inpatients treated by the NHS is down by 22,888."

The latest Quarterly Trends show that in NHS Highland, the waiting list is up from 4046 in 2001 to 5098 now (increase of 1052) and the median wait for inpatient and day cases has increased from 32 days to 46 days (increase of 14 days).