Sheffield’s hospitals are making ‘good progress’ towards cutting waiting times, health chiefs have said – despite fewer outpatients being treated within 18 weeks.
According to the most recent figures, more than 700 outpatients were waiting over 18 weeks at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals at the end of January, an increase of more than 100 on the previous month.
Meanwhile the total number of outpatients waiting stood at 27,171 – some 12,996 of whom had been waiting over five weeks.
Last month The Star reported an action plan had been launched to cut waiting times.
A report to a meeting of the hospitals trust’s board of directors next week says the plan is ‘progressing’, but that the target to treat 95 per cent of outpatients within 18 weeks of referral has been missed for a third month.
Meeting targets for inpatients was also ‘increasingly challenging’, with 715 patients needing admission waiting longer than 20 weeks in January.
Hospital departments have now been asked to draw up individual action plans.
Measures include laying on extra outpatient clinics and theatre lists, ensuring job vacancies are filled, and taking on more consultants.
Bosses will also be told that a ‘significant increase in activity’ is required to make sure enough patients are seen on time over the next year, but there are doubts over whether this is affordable.
An online training programme offered to 1,200 hospital workers showed a ‘baseline low level of knowledge and understanding’ of the NHS’s 18-week ‘pathway’ for patients.
Kirsten Major, the trust’s director of strategy and operations, said its waiting times were ‘still among the lowest in the NHS’, but demand from patients has increased in recent years.
“Over the last few weeks we have made good progress and are already seeing improvements in some areas. All of the work is focused on providing patients with high quality, timely care despite rising demand,” she said.