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New national targets to tackle long waits for planned care

Ambitious targets to end long waits.  

Ambitious new targets have been set out for NHS Scotland to address the impact of the pandemic on long waiting times for planned care.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf announced NHS Scotland will aim to eradicate waits of more than two years, and then one year in most specialities by September 2024.

Mr Yousaf has asked health boards to take a focussed approach to tackle the waiting lists now that activity in the NHS is beginning to recover from the pandemic.

The targets are to treat those patients waiting longer than:

  • two year waits for outpatients in most specialities by the end of August 2022
  • eighteen months for outpatients in most specialities by the end of December 2022
  • one year for outpatients in most specialities by the end of March 2023
  • two years for inpatient / daycases in most specialties by the end of September 2022
  • eighteen months for inpatient / daycases in most specialities by the end of September 2023
  • one year for inpatient / daycases in most specialities by the end of September 2024

Mr Yousaf, who made the announcement while visiting Perth Royal Infirmary said:

“We know that waiting times have grown as a result of the pandemic, which is why we now need to focus on treating these people that are waiting too long for treatment. That’s why I am announcing some of the most ambitious targets in the UK.

“From speaking to patients and clinicians across the country, I know there is a physical and mental consequence in having to wait a long period to be treated, that is why addressing long waits is a key focus of our plans for NHS recovery.”

Mr Alastair Murray, Chair of Scottish Committee for Orthopaedics and Trauma said:

"Scottish orthopaedics very much welcomes the introduction of targets to address the growing number of people waiting for essential treatment. It is hoped that the targets set out will drive ongoing efforts to reduce waiting times for orthopaedic surgery in Scotland."

The NHS will work together to reduce backlogs of care, specifically longest waiting patients, and that will mean some patients will be offered appointments outwith their local health board area to provide treatment more quickly - for example, the Golden Jubilee University National Hospital or at National Treatment Centres as they become operational over the next year.  

The approach will also build on the success of the Centre for Sustainable Delivery, which was established to drive innovation and introduce new ways of delivering care that will create additional capacity for inpatient, daycase and outpatients. 

The National Clinical Prioritisation Framework will be revised to ensure any patient waiting more than two years is prioritised and treated, as well as those who require urgent clinical care.

Funding for the new drive will come from the £1 billion allocated for the NHS Recovery Plan.

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