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Review launched into NHS waiting targets

The Scottish Government has launched a review into NHS waiting targets, amid concerns that political priorities are ‘overshadowing’ clinical decisions.

Scottish health minister Shona Robison said that the time had come to ‘take stock’ of what is asked of the NHS in light of Scotland ‘shifting the delivery of care from hospitals to the community’.

But she added that patients had the right to expect certain standards and that targets had ‘driven many significant improvements in the NHS, such as lower waiting times and safer patient environments’.

The review, which will report during this financial year, was launched earlier this week and will be led by an ‘expert group’, ‘working with staff, stakeholders, social care and clinical bodies’.

It comes as hospitals in Scotland are struggling to meet a number of waiting standards, including a 12-week outpatient appointment target following referral that has not been met for over a year.

It comes as the BMA had called for a review of NHS targets in the lead-up to last month’s elections to the Scottish Parliament.

BMA Scotland national director Jill Vickerman welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement and advised that ‘such a review should focus on how measurement and public reporting of health service activity can drive the most effective use of resources, and ensure that the clinical needs of patients are prioritised according to those who have the most urgent medical needs’.

She added: ‘Doctors are frustrated that the focus on political priorities it creates can overshadow clinical advice and decision-making.’

It comes as NHS England announced an overhaul of waiting targets last year, to prevent penalising hospitals dealing with large numbers of complex patients.