North Wales health board in danger of being fined £1m over lengthy waiting lists
A Health board is in danger of being fined around £1m for leaving patients waiting too long for treatment.
Estimates revealed by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board shows there are currently more than 6,100 people who have waited over eight months for hospital treatment.
It comes despite NHS Wales guidelines stating that all patients should have started to receive medical care within 36 weeks of being referred by their GP or another health professional.
The Welsh Government has injected almost £20m to try and improve performance against referral to treatment (RTT) figures in North Wales.
However, the chair of Betsi Cadwaladr, which has been in special measures for almost four years, has warned it could be hit by a large financial penalty with the number of people left waiting standing at 400 above the level expected.
Speaking at a board meeting in Wrexham this week, former North Wales Police chief constable Mark Polin said he was concerned that the organisation had not yet grasped the reason for the delays.
He said: “We’ve spent many months if not over a year supported by the delivery unit in trying to understand our RTT numbers and we’ve still not got to the point where we’re confident we can understand it.
“To improve our confidence levels as a board and also our relationship with the Welsh Government, we have got to get to the bottom of this sooner rather than later.
“First of all, Welsh Government were expecting us to come in at least around or below the end of last year’s figure, which was between 5,700 and 5,800 (patients).
“If we come in at 6,100, we’re over that and that comes with a financial risk of clawback because they’ve given us in the region of £19m to underpin our RTT performance.
“If there is a clawback because we go over that figure then we’ve got to consume that within our finances.”
A report shows that the most significant concerns are around the waiting times for dermatology in north east Wales.
Meanwhile, almost 1,800 patients have been waiting over eight weeks for diagnostic endoscopies.
The delays in carrying out the nonsurgical procedure to examine a person’s digestive tract have also contributed to more people waiting beyond the 62 day threshold for cancer treatment.
Officials said everything possible was being done to prioritise urgent suspected cancer cases.
A possible penalty of £1m has been prepared for in the event that the Welsh Government chooses to take action, although Russell Favager, executive director of finance, said the actual amount it is forced to return could differ.
He said: “It is difficult to calculate what the potential clawback is as there’s a number of methodologies that could be used.
“We’ve used a unit price of £2,500 for everyone we miss, so £1m is our best estimate at the moment.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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