By Ellie Broughton
Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has promised that all patients will be seen within the 18-week target, despite warnings the target ‘disorts priorities’.
The latest figures show 14.8% of all patients in Scotland waited more than 18 weeks from referral to treatment (RTT) in March, and this compares with 12.8% of patients waiting for hospital treatment over the same period in England.
Ms Sturgeon promised to eradicate all waits over 18 weeks in Scotland by 1 December.
She said: ‘Patients continue to tell me that prompt access to treatment, delivered as locally as possible, is one of their top priorities and that is why we are continuing to put such an emphasis on cutting waiting times.’
The claim was met with a cool welcome from BMA Scotland. Dr Brian Keighley, chair of BMA Scotland, said: ‘Any movement towards easing the passage of patients through the pathway of care is welcome, but it mustn’t be done at the cost of distorting clinical priorities, which we’ve seen happen in England.’
‘We’re not complacent, and we welcome moves to hurry things up but the absolute priority is those who need treatment urgently.’
Figures showed wide variation between local health boards in their efforts to meet the 18-week target. In March, 78.6% of Ayrshire and Arran patients and 80% of those in Greater Glasgow and Clyde were treated within 18 weeks of being referred. This compared to highs of 98.5% in Shetland and 98.7% in Orkney.
It also emerged that the statistics cover only two-thirds of the Scottish NHS, as some hospitals lack the IT capability to measure waiting times.
Waiting times in England