When we hear statistics about hospital waiting times, what does that mean? When does the clock start ticking? The NHS website says it is from the date of the initial referral, but the following case history casts doubt on that.
- Week 0. GP appointment. Referred to hospital for surgery.
- Had to wait 3 weeks before it was even possible to make an appointment
- Week 3. Offered appointment in week 10.
- Week 10. Appointment cancelled at short notice. Offered appointment in week 14.
- Week 14. Surgery outpatient clinic.
- Week 18. Pre-op appointment. Referred to cardiology (low heart rate, ?unsuitable for general anaesthetic)
- Week 19. Cardiology clinic
- Week 20. Surgery clinic confirms different operation with local anaesthetic. Told operation would have to be before January (the “breach date”).
This implies that they have re-started the clock at this point, when a further 18 weeks would take it to the middle of January. But this is 38 weeks from the initial referral. It may be that NHS rules do allow re-starting the clock in certain circumstances, which would not ne totally unreasonable, but it does mean that there could be a substantial level of undisclosed waiting.