A group of GPs will meet with bosses at the Royal Preston Hospital next week over concerns about waiting times for non-urgent treatment.
The Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says it wants to discuss “the current waiting list profile” at the hospital and an increase in the number of so-called “long waiters”.
Papers presented to a board meeting of the organisation reveal there are currently 34 patients in central Lancashire who have been waiting for longer than a year since they were referred to hospital by their GP. Documents show the longest waits are for neurosurgery.
NHS England expects 92 percent of patients to be seen within 18 weeks of a GP referral, but the target has not been met at a national level since February 2016. It was effectively downgraded last year when NHS bosses said they were not expecting the standard to be achieved again until 2020.
Helen Curtis, Head of Quality and Performance at Greater Preston CCG, told board members that the shift in national focus away from outpatient waiting times was “not terribly helpful”.
A revised NHS England target simply to ensure that waiting lists are no longer in March next year than they were in March this year was “not ambitious”, she added.
In May, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - which operates the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospitals - treated 82% of patients within 18 weeks. That meant just over 6,000 people waited longer than that.
Greater Preston CCG, which commissions most health services for people in the city, monitors all aspects of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals’ performance.
The trust was praised for exceeding a national target by treating all cancer patients within 62 days of referral via a screening service.
And board members heard that improvements were being made to the stroke rehabilitation unit at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, after beds were once again ringfenced for the service, having previously been used as overspill during the winter.
But there was concern over other measures, including medication mistakes - of which were there were 24 in April alone, resulting in “low harm”.
Ian Cherry, lay member for finance at Greater Preston CCG, said he feared a pattern was emerging of “accepting poor performance [by the trust] as the norm”.