Department of Health Spinning

A quality piece of spinning here from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety. I mentioned previously that in June 2007 Michael McGimpsey announced the following targets for waiting times in our NHS:

• 13 weeks for a first outpatient appointment
• 13 weeks for a diagnostic test
• 21 weeks for surgery.

As I went on to explain these targets were modified in January (downgraded) and turned from targets into aspirations which were as follows:

• Reduction of waiting time from outpatients to surgery from 45 to 37 weeks.

Now Mr. McGimpsey has welcomed the failure to meet the targets in a press release:

“Excellent progress continues to be made to reduce hospital waiting times and I commend healthcare staff for their efforts in delivering a high quality health service and real benefits for patients. The number of patients waiting over 13 weeks for an outpatient appointment has fallen by almost 90% compared with the end of March 2007, and the number waiting over 21 weeks for surgery by almost 80%.”

Interestingly there are still some people waiting more than six months though for some odd reason the department does not tell us how many:

“The figures published today do however, reveal a number of patients waiting over six months for outpatient assessment and for inpatient or daycase treatment.”

In the June 2007 press release we were told there were only 32 patients waiting more than six months, the impressive reductions, of course, having been almost entirely achieved under Direct Rule; not that that stopped McGimpsey claiming credit for it. The question is: are there now more people waiting more than six months?

One again we see that under McGimpsey’s inspired leadership we are failing to get anywhere near the English target of the “18 week patient journey” to be delivered by the end of 2008. Indeed it is possible that in terms of the 6 month waiters that our NHS is actually going backwards.