Skip to main content
Sign In

Hospital waiting times well managed in Highland 

20/12/2012   |  Argyll & Bute; North & West Highland; South & Mid Highland; Raigmore 

NHS Highland has received positive feed-back on their management of hospital waiting times.

The Scottish Government, who asked all Boards to undertake an Audit, have just published the findings. The Report for NHS Highland is available on our website under the news section.

The Scottish Government ordered all Health Boards to undertake an audit of waiting times practices by their Internal Auditors after the audit of NHS Lothian waiting times highlighted areas of systematic poor practice [1].  The audit shows that none of the issues found in Lothian happen in Highland.

In the small number of cases where NHS Highland fail to meet waiting time targets these are reported openly including through NHS Highland  Improvement Committee and to the Board. 

Between September and November 2012, Auditors carried out an internal  review of waiting times. The Audit shows that NHS Highland has well developed structures to support the management of hospital waiting times.  This includes close monitoring and scrutiny of performance to make sure there is compliance with maximum waiting times targets [2]

For NHS Highland the audit tracked 200 patients. Six errors were found in total and none related to Argyll and Bute. These errors have been studied in detail and found to reflect training issues and some limitations in how information can be recorded in the current Patient Administration System.

Garry Coutts, Chair of NHS Highland, said: “We welcomed the Audit and co-operated fully.  We did not expect the Auditors to find any surprises and they didn’t. I am very pleased with the feed-back I have received and proud of staff in Highland who work so hard to get this right.

“We will continue to report our waiting time openly and in public through our various Committees including to the Board.”

Elaine Mead, Chief Executive of NHS Highland, said: “We take waiting time targets very seriously and have well trained and motivated staff who manage waiting times and who work very closely with clinical teams and patients.

“While we would expect a very detailed audit such as this to highlight some learning points we have been given a clean bill of health in terms of our strong philosophy of making sure we are patient-centred. And I really would like to thank staff across Highland who do such a fantastic job to make sure our patients are seen and treated quickly and in order of clinical priority.  

“The six errors need to be seen in the context that we deal with 1000s of patients every day.  Mistakes can happen and we work hard to minimise these but our current Patient Administration System does not always make it easy for our staff. But we have well developed plans to upgrade the system which will be the same as we use in Argyll and Bute where no errors were found.

“Based on the six errors a number of recommendations were made and NHS Highland has provided detailed responses.

“The work we are doing to support the Highland Quality Approach will further help us with our ambition to eliminate any errors as we strive to constantly improve our systems to improve care.”

Patient waiting times are a key indicator of the accessibility of some services and one indicator of the quality of patient care. Reduced waiting times can result in earlier diagnosis and better outcomes for patients and can also improve patient experience  by reducing uncertainty and unnecessary worry.



[1] SG ordered all Health Boards to undertake an audit of waiting times practices by their Internal Auditors after the audit of NHS Lothian waiting times highlighted areas of systematic poor practice. This report is in the public domain. The main findings from the review were:

• Manual adjustments to those patients who were breaching waiting times before reporting to more senior management levels
• Excessive and inappropriate use of periods of patient unavailability
• A practice of “don’t minute or record” which prevented full details of waiting times issues from progressing up through the operational framework where a more strategic and collective approach could have been taken
• An encouragement to local operational staff to resolve issues through adjustments of waiting times figures rather than actually resolving delays.
[2]  The Scottish Government introduced a HEAT target to reduce waiting times across NHS Scotland. The overall national target is that, from December 2011, at least 90% of patients should receive treatment within 18 weeks of being referred (known at the Referral To Treatment time – RTT).

As at December 2011, 92% of patients in Scotland whose journey could be fully measured were treated within 18 weeks.  NHS Highland has exceeded the HEAT target and consistently performed around or above the national average in the nine months to June 2012.

Further information

Erin Greig 
Communications manager 
01463 705771