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By Ian Dipple Friday 31 January 2014 Updated: 31/01 10:03
PRIVATE companies are being used to reduce waiting times for patients after it was revealed it could be six months before the county’s NHS hospitals are back in target.
A total of 90 per cent of patients needing elective surgery are supposed to either have or be offered their treatment within 18 weeks of being referred by a GP.
But Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is currently missing the target as a result of rising demand through A&E and delays discharging people, tying up beds which should be used by surgical patients and leading to cancelled operations.
The number of people waiting more than 18 weeks has soared from 181 in April 2012 to over 1,000 as of December last year.
On top of that referrals for treatment is rising with demand for orthopaedic cases up 8.4 per cent and oral surgery up 5.2 per cent between April and December.
In a bid to hit the target commissioners have now agreed a deal with two private hospitals within Worcestershire to treat some of the patients on the waiting list but using NHS cash.
The Trust is also looking at performing extra operations during evenings and at weekends as well.
But Dr Jonathan Wells, chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group, said he had concerns about the use of private providers as it would ultimately mean taking money away from WAHT, which is already over £10million in debt.
“I don’t like the idea of spending NHS money on independent providers to get within the 18 weeks because it means diverting resources away from the main NHS provider and that causes them more problems getting back into financial balance,” he told a meeting of the CCG’s governing body.
“These are patients which have already chosen Worcestershire Acute Trust and we are diverting them away.”
But Chris Emerson, head of commissioning for the county’s three CCGs, said patients were entitled to be dealt with within 18 weeks under the NHS constitution and so they had to offer them the choice of an alternative provider. She added it was important GPs carefully considered what they were referring into hospitals.
Penny Venables, chief executive of WAHT, added: “If we can ensure those patients get their operations quicker then in the short-term I don’t have a problem with that, it’s the right thing to do. But in the long-term we need to sort out the emergency admissions problem so we can provide that elective surgery for them as well.”
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