I’m bitterly disappointed that the huge efforts of our clinical teams to deliver shorter waiting times to orthopaedic patients has been characterised in such a negative way.
The fact is that we have a tremendous success story to tell in the delivery of improved orthopaedic waiting times.
This has seen the total number of patients waiting for orthopaedic treatment cut by 21 per cent between April 2003 and December 2006. At the same time as cutting the numbers, the maximum guaranteed waiting time has also significantly reduced. In April 2003, 1737 patients were waiting over 18 weeks for treatment. By December 2006 no patients waited longer than 18 weeks.
In addition to this overall improvement, the number of patients with an ASC four code has also dropped. Contrary to today’s accusations that the Southern has been “using” ASC codes inappropriately, the fact is that there are 22 per cent fewer orthopaedic patients with an ASC four code at the hospital today than there were in June of last year.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has a highly transparent reporting process in regard to waiting times and ASC codes. These ASC codes are applied at the time of referral by clinicians dedicated to achieving the best care for their patients as quickly as possible. The coding of patients has been correctly applied by the treating clinicians in both the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the Southern General.
The disparity between the orthopaedic units in the two hospitals is as a result of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary achieving the target for the eradication of ASC code fours a full year early.
The Glasgow Royal Infirmary orthopaedics team is larger and the hospital has been able to open extra wards and increase activity in order to deliver a year early.
At the Southern they have not had the same opportunities for early expansion but are now well on target, as part of a phased plan of investment across the city, to deliver the same results within the timescales set nationally – Dec 2007. This will be achieved by a number of initiatives including additional in-house theatre sessions, the use of the Golden Jubilee National Hospital and the private sector and the redesign of current practices including extended day sessions.
In light of today’s accusations, a review of all orthopaedic patients with an ASC Code four has commenced today. Already, early analysis of this group of patients gives a complete bill of health for the ASC coding practice of the treating consultants.
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