Scotland’s waiting times slide again

by Rob Findlay

Patient treatment target met
(Scottish Government)

Sigh. Yes, the target was met, again. No, this doesn’t mean that waiting times have improved in Scotland.

The Scottish referral-to-treatment (RTT) figures only tell us about those patients who were lucky enough to be treated. If you look at the poor souls who are still waiting for weeks on end, you can see that their numbers continue to rise.

Excluding the exceptional waiting times meltdown in Lothian, this is what is happening to long-waiters who are still on the waiting list in Scotland (source: ISD):

Over 12 week waiters on list
Over 12 week waiters on list

Scotland doesn’t yet collect RTT data for incomplete patient journeys (the data is far from perfect for completed patient journeys, so there are good reasons for not taking that more-difficult next step). But we do have this stage-of-treatment data for the waiting list itself and, yes, this is subject to targets: a 12 week target wait for outpatients, and a legal requirement (the Treatment Time Guarantee, or TTG) to treat inpatients and daycases within 12 weeks from 1 October.

Long-waiting outpatients and inpatients have actually eased back slightly in September from their peak at the end of August (not shown in this quarterly chart). This may mark the start of an improvement, or it could be a seasonal effect. You might expect the inpatient/daycase waits to improve as the TTG takes effect (even though, strictly, it only applies to patients added after 1 October). We shall see.

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