How are waiting times monitored?7th June 2011
Writing in HSJ, Founder of Gooroo Ltd and a specialist in waiting time dynamics Rob Findlay asks how do trust boards monitor waiting times.
There are up to eight measures of waiting times at English acute trusts.
Oddly, trusts can meet most of these simply by refusing to treat any patient who was referred more than 18 weeks ago.
The most important measure is the 95th centile waiting time for incomplete pathways - the only measure that looks at long-waiters who are still waiting.
But with so many measures, how do Trust Boards focus on the measure that matters?
Having reviewed board papers on websites from 165 trusts, it seems that most are in the dark.
The most popular measure monitored was the admitted and non-admitted RTT (referral-to-treatment) percentage within 18 weeks, and 82% of Trusts monitored this.
Next, monitored by 39% of trusts, was the admitted and non-admitted median RTT.
The admitted and non-admitted 95th centile RTT wait was covered by 35% but only 25% monitored the incomplete pathway 95th centile RTT wait.
Boards did also present other data to help members understand backlog pressures.
But with only 58% presenting combinations of data, it seems nearly half gave their boards no information about those patients who were still waiting, or perhaps they were giving data in private session.
One board, for example, made no commentary on 18 weeks, suggesting all was well but that was not the case as many patients are already waiting more than 18 weeks after referral.
Perhaps it would be better for Trusts to focus attention on the measures that really matter, and if there is a problem to actually say so.
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