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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Hospital blamed for missed NHS target
Royal United Hospitals, Bath
The Bath hospitals have been singled out for criticism
The government has singled out one hospital trust for causing the NHS to miss a key waiting list target.

Ministers had promised that by the end of March no patient would have to wait more than 15 months for in-hospital treatment.

Officials estimate that up to 280 people have been waiting this long for treatment at Royal United Hospitals in Bath.


One hospital must not cloud what is a considerable achievement for NHS hospitals and staff throughout England

Health Minister John Hutton
This compares with just one person in the rest of the NHS in England.

Health Minister John Hutton said firm action was being taken to tackle problems at the trust.

Resignation

Downing Street said on Friday that the trust chairman had resigned and its chief executive and finance director had been suspended.

The government said in spite of the situation at Bath the number of patients waiting more than 15 months for in-patient treatment was now the lowest on record.

It said the number of patients waiting more than 12 months for in-patient treatment was at its lowest level since 1996.

According to the Department of Health figures, the number of people waiting over 12 months fell by 4,400 during March to 21,400. This compares with a total of 41,500 last year.

The total number of people waiting for hospital treatment dropped slightly over the same period - down 15,700 to 1,034,700.

Mr Hutton said: "The isolated problems of one hospital must not cloud what is a considerable achievement for NHS hospitals and staff throughout England.

"There is a long way to go, but the facts speak for themselves."

Fiddled figures

An independent report into the trust, published last week, concluded there was "evidence to suggest that there may have been some deliberate falsification of figures" at the hospital.

It found that in March 2001, the actual number of outpatients who had waited over 13 weeks for an appointment was 2,000 more than the 122 reported by the hospital trust.

The report was commissioned by the hospital trust and led by Alan Bedford, the then chief executive of East Sussex, Brighton and Hove Health Authority.

The Royal United Hospital Trust said it had asked a former regional director of the NHS to look into the findings of the report.

Criticism

The Liberal Democrats criticised the statistics.

Its health spokesman Dr Evan Harris said: "There is now clear evidence that the whole waiting list and waiting time industry is riddled with inconsistencies about what counts as waiting, what counts as a procedure and what counts as an inpatient setting.

"All these figures are worse than useless as a measure of how well patients are being treated."

See also:

20 Feb 02 | Health
Waiting lists top public concern
04 May 02 | England
'Bail out' crisis-hit hospital
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