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Waiting time scandal health board in £37m recovery plan

THE health board which sparked a national scandal over fiddled waiting time figures has admitted its faults and announced a £37 million recovery plan to bring its performance into line.

NHS Lothian was censured by public spending watchdog Audit Scotland for falsifying waiting time figures in 2011 and pressurising staff to manipulate numbers to meet shorter waiting time guarantees, prompting a political storm which engulfed ministers and led to scrutiny of other boards.

It is now seeking to redeem its reputation by recognising that it was "not delivering" for patients and has pledged to fulfil its statutory guarantee that no eligible outpatient will wait longer than 12 weeks by the end of the year.

NHS Lothian's director of scheduled care Jim Crombie said it would like to meet its obligations sooner than December but this would require more extensive use of the private sector than managers would like.

He added: "This strategy is a real and tangible roadmap for our future. It sets out our commitments to patients for the years ahead and explains how we plan to re-shape our services to provide more effective, patient-centred care."

Lothian was caught manipulating patient codes and engaging in practices such as making last- minute offers of operations many miles from the region which, if turned down, returned patients to the back of the queue.

There were also claims that these practices were designed to ease the pressure in the case of over-subscribed procedures or other complex ones.

A Scottish Labour' spokesman said: "This plan is welcome, but it's a shame it's after the horse has already bolted with the hidden waiting times scandal.

"Our concern is that there is no long-term over-arching strategy for the NHS and that this piecemeal approach to healthcare under Alex Neil's leadership is not sustainable."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "Only now is the true damage of the deliberate waiting times chaos becoming clear for patients.

"But I'm glad the health board is taking seriously the repair work needed, because it's no less than patients in and around Edinburgh deserve."

Mr Crombie insisted: "This strategy will see both new resources being brought into play but also redesign of existing clinical models to maximise effectiveness and efficiency.

"I have deliberately said that NHS Lothian is not delivering. Patients are waiting beyond the waiting time standards agreed with the Government and set out by parliament."

He added: "This is not limited to areas of high complexity, but is occurring in some instances where capacity for these patients could be available by improving efficiency and productivity.

"This position must be recovered."

Yesterday it was reported one NHS Lothian patient suffering chest pains recently had to wait 22 hours for a hospital transfer.

Mr Crobie said: "I am keen not to only focus on the mechanics of waiting times but on the provision of quality and safety of our patients.

"We are still reliant on the private sector at this time, but over the next period that will be reduced as our in-house capacity and infrastructure grows."

Tim Davison, chief executive at NHS Lothian, said: "Our approach is about making sure we can deliver our targets safely."

The Patients Right Act 2012 offers a treatment time guarantee of 12 weeks but no health board has met the target to date or is close to doing so.

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Health

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211997