NHS waiting lists and evidence of national or local failure: analysis of health service data.

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    • Abstract:
      Objectives: To investigate the national distribution of prolonged waiting for elective day case and inpatient surgery, and to examine associations of prolonged waiting with markers of NHS capacity, activity in the independent sector, and need. Setting: NHS hospital trusts in England. Population: People waiting for elective treatment in the specialties of general surgery; ear, nose and throat surgery; ophthalmic surgery; and trauma and orthopaedic surgery. Main outcome measure: Numbers of people waiting six months or longer (prolonged waiting). Characteristics of trusts with large numbers waiting six months or longer were examined by using logistic regression. Results: The distribution of numbers of people waiting for day case or elective surgery in all the specialties examined was highly positively skewed. Between 52% and 83% of patients waiting longer than six months in the specialties studied were found in one quarter of trusts, which in turn contributed 23-45% of the national throughput specific to the specialty. In general, there was little evidence to show that capacity (measured by numbers of operating theatres, dedicated day case theatres, available beds, and bed occupancy rate) or independent sector activity were associated with prolonged waiting, although exceptions were noted for individual specialties. There was consistent evidence showing an increase in prolonged waiting, with increased numbers of anaesthetists across all specialties and with increased bed occupancy rates for ear, nose, and throat surgery. Markers of greater need for health care, such as deprivation score and rate of limiting long term illness, were inversely associated with prolonged waiting. Conclusion: In most instances, substantial numbers of patients waiting unacceptably long periods for elective surgery were limited to a small number of hospitals. Little and inconsistent support was found for associations of prolonged waiting with markers of capacity, independent sector... [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
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