Guernsey Press

Waiting list target missed for four out of 10 patients in 2023

NEARLY four out of every 10 patients spent longer than they should have on waiting lists for specialist health services last year.

Medical Director Peter Rabey. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32996466)

Figures released yesterday showed that only 68% of outpatients and 53% of inpatients were seen by consultants or doctors within waiting times set out in the States’ secondary healthcare contract with the Medical Specialist Group.

The overall figure of 61% in 2023 fell well short of the agreed target of 95% and compared unfavourably with the equivalent figure of 67% the previous year.

Health & Social Care’s medical director Peter Rabey, right, admitted that it was ‘not the picture we would hope to see’.

But he insisted that the annual report on key performance indicators showed that the island’s secondary healthcare services generally performed well in a year in which the number of patients referred or admitted increased by more than 2,200.

‘We are seeing a huge number of patients added to waiting lists every year. Last year, we added more than 10,000 patients to waiting lists, even though we took 9,500 off waiting lists,’ said Dr Rabey.

‘The fact waiting lists are more or less static is a good news story. We treated over 1,000 more people last year than the year before.

‘Most people are seen within the eight-week waiting time and, of those who wait longer than eight weeks, most are seen within three months.’

The missed targets were largely the result of persistent problems with waiting lists in two areas of medicine – orthopaedics and gastroenterology – despite additional investment in a new dedicated orthopaedic ward at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital and a so-called ‘blitz’ of procedures by visiting endoscopy teams last summer.

Dr Rabey said that the next phase of redevelopment at the PEH, at an estimated cost of about £120m., was critical to increasing capacity to deal with orthopaedic surgery and that the appointment of additional consultants and nursing staff would help gastroenterology services.

Waiting time targets last year were nearly met at the emergency department and were slightly exceeded in radiology, which includes ultrasound and CT and MRI scans.

‘I think we’re doing reasonably well. The eight-week target is aspirational,’ said MSG chairman Dr Steve Evans.

‘As long as people are not waiting 12 or 18 months, which very few are, if any, we’re providing a good service.

‘When people are waiting for surgery, when they are anxious or in pain, we are doing our level best to deal with that and reduce their wait as much as possible.’

HSC and the MSG said their greatest achievement last year was diagnosing and treating thousands more patients than the year before. They said this was another reminder of unstoppable increases in demand for health services as the population ages and medicine improves.

The report also recorded high standards of infection prevention and showed that targets were exceeded for both containing average length of stay in hospital and preventing emergency readmission within 28 days of discharge.

Recruitment challenges had eased slightly at the MSG.

‘I think we are in a better place than we were. We recently advertised for an anaesthetic post and we had 11 applications. I think that shows we are being effective,’ said Dr Evans.

But Dr Rabey reported ‘a discouragingly similar’ picture on recruitment. HSC was using about the same number of agency staff as in previous years, which he said was ‘far more than we would like’.