NHS Scotland Treatment Time Guarantee performance slumps to record low

Written by Tom Freeman on 29 May 2018 in News

‘Beast from the East’ blamed for record low performance against the 12-week treatment guarantee

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NHS Scotland has recorded its worst-ever performance against a legally binding guarantee that all patients will be treated within 12 weeks.

Only 75.9 per cent of patients were treated within the timescale in the first three months of 2018, according to the latest figures, the lowest percentage since the Treatment Time Guarantee (TTG) was introduced in 2012.

The Scottish Government said the figures reflected the pressure put on services during the severe weather in March, dubbed ‘the Beast from the East’, but opposition parties pointed to the fact the figures covered the full three months.

The figures differed across the regional health boards, with NHS Forth Valley the poorest performing with only 53 per cent of patients seen within 12 weeks.

Ministers announced £50m in support for health boards on Monday to help reduce long waits for treatment.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “This period covered a challenging winter for the NHS and severe weather in early March which caused disruption that took hospitals time to recover from. So it is testament to the hard work and dedication of staff that the average wait for patients receiving treatment within the treatment time guarantee was eight weeks, and that 1.6 million patients have received their treatment within the guarantee since it was introduced.”

But Scottish Labour highlighted the 16,772 cases where the TTG had been broken since January.

Health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “No one will buy Shona Robision’s attempts to hide behind a week of extreme weather to explain poor performance for three months.

“The real reason for these figures is Shona Robison’s complete and utter failure to manage the health service properly.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said the TTG was effectively worthless.

"People were promised redress on the "rare occasions" things go wrong, so what is being done for those who have been systematically failed?” he said.

"Now that her guarantee has been missed by a bigger margin than ever, the First Minister must personally issue an apology to the tens of thousands of people to whom it proved utterly meaningless.”

There was also concerns raised about other figures in the report, including the number of people waiting for diagnostic tests, with around 17,100 patients waiting longer than the required six weeks.

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s head of external affairs, said: “It’s concerning that so many people are waiting too long for tests that might tell someone if they have cancer.

“Part of the reason why hospitals are struggling to meet the target is because their diagnostic services are short staffed. The Scottish Government must address this.”

Meanwhile, with 92.9 per cent of people seen within four hours, weekly figures in A&E departments were the best for six months, although still short of the government target of 95 per cent.

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