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Patient data 'warning signs'

28th February 2013

Concerns have been raised over the lack of response to indications that patient waiting lists in Scotland were being manipulated.

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Auditor general Caroline Gardner told Scottish politicians that health boards and the Scottish government should have heeded warning signs of problems with waiting lists.

She told MSPs an increase in the practice of patients being marked “unavailable” for treatment should have rung warning bells.

Audit Scotland reported on the issue last week, after waiting list manipulation emerged at NHS Lothian, and suggested lists were being manipulated throughout Scotland though ministers have countered this claiming there is no evidence of widespread waiting list manipulation across the country.

NHS Lothian removed patients from the 18-week waiting list when they refused to travel to England for treatment. It marked them as “unavailable for social reasons.”

Ms Gardner told the Scottish Parliament’s audit committee that if NHS boards and the government had been looking at the other information which was available, such as the increasing use of social unavailability codes, that should have raised some warning signs meriting further investigation.

She said there was a rise in use of social unavailability codes during April-December 2011.

“That information should have rung warning bells both for the health boards and for the Scottish government,” said Ms Gardner.

“It wasn’t acted upon and it could have helped to avoid some of the concerns that have been raised since then.”

The Scottish government said the “socially unavailable” listing has been replaced by a system giving patients more flexibility to agree when they want to be treated.

 

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