Page last updated at 00:28 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

NHS waiting lists fairer, says study

surgeons at work
The report said patients are getting a fairer deal under the new system

Changes to NHS waiting lists have made the system fairer for patients according to the public sector watchdog Audit Scotland.

In a report it said an overhaul of the system two years ago had resulted in most patients waiting less than the 15 week target.

It concluded the new arrangements had improved the way the health service managed waiting lists.

But it criticised the way the NHS communicated with patients.

Auditor General for Scotland Robert Black said: "Waiting times are very important to patients and the new arrangements have improved the way the NHS manages waiting lists.

"The NHS now needs to build on this to make sure that the new arrangements work well for everyone."

'All-time low'

The report highlighted differences in the way health boards treated patients who missed appointments, with some putting a patient to the end of the waiting list after the first time they failed to attend.

Audit Scotland has now recommended the Scottish government considers additional guidance to "make sure patients are managed fairly across Scotland".

Mr Black added: "The NHS also needs to give people enough notice of appointments and make sure that they get information in a way they can understand so they are in a good position to be able to attend."

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said plans were already under way to put the recommendations made by the report in place.

She added: "Waiting times are now at an all-time low.

"Staff across the health service have worked extremely hard to make these changes and will continue to keep this progress going."

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