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Caithness News Bulletins April 2005

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26 May 05
NHS Highland is continuing to reduce the number of people on NHS Waiting Lists. The publication today by the Scottish Executive of National figures on waiting times, showed that the number of people waiting over six months - on the waiting list for admission in Highland - has now fallen by almost 76%, from 360 at the end of March 2004 to 87 at 31st March 2005.

Roger Gibbins, Chief Executive of NHS Highland says that it is a question of continuous improvement: "We have been undertaking a number of initiatives to reduce the waiting list. These have included running evening operating sessions in Orthopaedics, undertaking Saturday lists in Ophthalmology, and additional Outpatient clinics in a number of specialties. This is now starting to pay off as the numbers of people waiting over six months, on the waiting list for admission in Highland, has now fallen by almost 76%, from 360 at the end of March 2004 to 87 at 31st March 2005. "

"No-one is waiting longer than nine months. Our aim is to have no one waiting over 18 weeks. The national deadline for this is December 2007 and we expect to achieve this before the target date."

The number of people on NHS Highland's Outpatients waiting lists has fallen by around 6%, from 11,954 at 31st December 2004 to 11,184 at 31st March 2005. The numbers of people waiting over 6 months for an outpatient appointment has also fallen - by 24% - from 2,478 in December 2004 to 1894 at 31st March 2005 (based on revised figures submitted to the Scottish Executive Health Department).

Number on Highland Waiting list waiting for admission over 6 months

December 2003   454
March 2004         360
December 2004   318
January 2005      252
March 2005          83

Number on Highland Waiting list waiting for admission over 9 months
Nil since December 2003

27 May 05
MSP Mary Scanlon Challenges Figures

NHS Highland Median waiting time for both Inpatients and Outpatients has risen to the highest levels since 2001, according to NHSScotland figures released today.

The Scottish Health Statistics for Acute Activity, Waiting Times and Waiting Lists show that the median wait for Inpatients and day cases discharge has risen to 54 days in the last quarter ending in March 2005. This figure represented an increase of 11 days on the previous quarter's figure, and was the highest total since 2001.

The median wait for Outpatients before being seen by a Consultant has also risen to its highest figure since 2001. Statistics for quarter ending March 2005 show the number of days to be 49, an increase of 4 on the figure of 45 for Quarter ending December 2004.

The statistics also show that the percentage of Total Outpatients seen within 9, 13, and 26 weeks has fallen to its lowest number since 2001 in each category.

Commenting, Highlands and Islands MSP Mary Scanlon said; "The lengthening wait for outpatient appointment and treatment is very worrying for patients in the Highlands"

ISDScotland Glossary of terms:
Median wait: The distribution of waiting times in any quarter tends to be highly skewed in that the shortest waits are most common and waits become less and less common as the length of wait increases. Encapsulating all aspects of a distribution such as this using a single statistic in each quarter is difficult. ISD publishes the median wait as a measure of a typical patient experience in that each quarter, by definition, 50% of patients will wait less than the median and 50% will wait longer. The median is also a robust measure to use to analyse trends in waiting times from quarter to quarter since, unlike the mean for example, it is not affected disproportionately by a small number of very long waits.

26 May 05
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan has welcomed the latest waiting time figures released by NHS Highland.

Mrs Macmillan said, "The figures for waiting times performance in Scotland, announced today, are the best ever recorded. This improvement has been achieved in a sustainable way, ensuring that the longer term targets will be achieved. The significant reduction has been achieved through further investment in the NHS to increase capacity, an increased use of the private sector and the huge commitment of NHS staff across Scotland.

In our own area NHS Highland has delivered a performance for hospital admission waiting times in excess of the plan submitted to the National Waiting Times Unit. The planned number of patients waiting over 26 weeks by 31 March was 120 but in practice the actual number waiting over this period was 83. The figures for outpatients were marginally ahead of the planned number - with 1899 patients waiting - being 109 less than the 2008 predicted. The figures for admissions are particularly encouraging and I understand that the position has continued to improve and that NHS Highland will only have 56 patients waiting for admission by the end of this month. This really is good news for patients and their families waiting for treatment for a range of conditions."

Mrs Macmillan added," A great deal of hard work, commitment and planning has gone into achieving these improvements and all the staff of NHS Highland are to be congratulated.

These results come the day after the Kerr report was released which sets out a framework for the future development of the NHS in Scotland. The key recommendations of the report are in line with the work being taken to provide more care locally, take a more proactive approach to medicine and to focus on health inequalities. I welcome the attention Professor Kerr has given to rural medicine, particularly the development of rural general hospitals and the parallel need to up-skill health professionals in rural areas. The creation of a new type of general surgeon or integrated care physician and the plan to establish a Clinical School for Rural Health Care are highly relevant to areas such as the Highlands and Islands."