Scotland's health minister Andy Kerr said that the NHS staff should be praised for their efforts and has hailed the latest statistics on NHS waiting times as the "best ever". He said that the maximum waiting time for the patients had reduced from 12 to 6 months.
Reports indicated that the figures up to 31st March on the number of outpatients and inpatient day cases with an 18-week wait for treatment was at its lowest ever level.
The Scottish Tories have accused the Scottish Executive of misrepresenting the facts. Mr Kerr explained that the NHS in Scotland was delivering continuously and he further continued, praising the contribution of the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank, which was bought in 2002 to reduce waiting times.
He stated that they were on track to bring that down their target even further, so as to cut the maximum wait to 18 weeks for first outpatient appointment or inpatient or as a day case treatment by December 2007. Acknowledging the contribution of the significant investment and reform they've made he said that these are what are showing real dividends for patients across the country.
Current statistics have also shown that the Golden Jubilee Hospital performed 28,636 procedures, which was an increase of 50% to the previous year exceededing its target by 14%. The minister pointed out that these were the same figures for which the ministry had drawn a lot of flak couple of months ago. Mr Kerr announced that the hospital offered patients quite a few choices, reduced waiting times and delivered first-class services.
Jill Young, chief executive of the Golden Jubilee Hospital explained that their patients many of whom come to the hospital from all across Scotland, are the actual beneficiaries from all this. Categorically stating hat the patients are their number one priority e explained that all these statistics also goes on to show how hard working their staff is. Praising all the staff, as to how they continually raise above the challenge of treating more and more people every year he said that it would have been near impossible for the hospital to do so in achieving their success.
Dr Nanette Milne, MSP and health spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives described the official figures as a "LIE" Explaining that while it may be the case that at the exact census dates in a year no-one with a guarantee waits more that 26 weeks for treatment, none of these people have yet been treated. She pointed out that many patients still might have to wait a further length of time before their appointment, as it is the date of treatment that really matters. She stated that that if the guarantee is to mean anything, it must apply 365 days of the year, not four.
But it appears that, since the deadline to hit the goal at the end of December, some 5000 eligible patients have waited longer than that for their first outpatient appointment. This discrepancy seems to be appearing as the executive judge the performance on how long patients on the waiting list have queued on one particular day. Reports of the details of the delays that were experienced by outpatients seen in the first three months of 2006, suggest around 2.3% waited longer than six months.
Dr Andrew Walker, health economist at Glasgow University, said: 'People read the words and assume the target means one thing, like no-one waits more than six months, which is what it appears to mean. However, if you read the fine print, that is not precisely what it means. It means no-one is waiting more than six months on census day.'
Shona Robison the SNP health spokeswoman said that she was delighted that no one with a guarantee was waiting more than six months for treatment. But she also added that many patients were excluded from those statistics by their inclusion on "hidden waiting lists". She further explained that it was wrong to exclude a third of those waiting for treatment from the headline figures would be wrong and misleading.
Meanwhile there are growing concerns about claims that doctors who are being pressurised to defer the treatment of cancer sufferers in order to treat non-essential patients and meet NHS waiting time targets. Medical leaders have warned that the focus on attaining lower waiting times has led to management asking consultants to prioritise operations on wisdom teeth over treatment for cancer patients. Andy Kerr, has called for an inquiry into the allegations and described any such request by management as "outrageous".