“NHS ready instances [… are] bettering following the pandemic”
That was the declare from Humza Yousaf on Tuesday in his maiden speech to the Scottish parliament as first minister.
Let’s have a look.
Very lengthy waits coming down?
There are numerous methods to measure ready instances – and ready lists – in Scotland’s NHS.
Mr Yousaf didn’t specify which metric he had in thoughts. However after the speech, the Scottish authorities advised FactCheck that “regardless of vital ongoing pressures, we proceed to make progress in bettering ready instances”.
The spokesperson pointed us to reductions within the variety of sufferers ready greater than two years for appointments and therapy.
The Scottish authorities additionally advised us that the variety of folks ready greater than two years for an outpatient appointment halved between September and December 2022. And that the quantity ready that lengthy for inpatient and day case therapy fell 28 per cent between June and December.
(Although the spokesperson didn’t point out that this inpatient determine really rose very barely within the newest month-to-month information – from 6,713 in November to six,856 in December.)
Patchy efficiency in opposition to the ‘18-week’ commonplace
Away from these excessively lengthy waits, efficiency in opposition to Scotland’s key ready instances targets is displaying solely very modest enchancment – and even getting worse.
Take the “18-week commonplace”. That’s a goal Scotland’s NHS has to start specialist therapy for 90 per cent of sufferers inside 18 weeks of a GP referral.
The most recent accessible information exhibits a slight enhance within the proportion of individuals handled inside that focus on time in December in comparison with the earlier month (rising from 69 to 70 per cent).
At first look, that would lend help to Mr Yousaf’s declare that NHS ready instances are bettering. However on nearer inspection, there are some critical limitations to this determine.
For starters, it’s solely a single month of slight enchancment. As Public Well being Scotland (PHS) notes, once we look between quarters, the proportion of sufferers seen inside the goal time within the three months to December “is 3 per cent decrease than [the] quarter ending September 2022”.
In different phrases, issues are getting worse on a quarter-by-quarter foundation – not higher.
PHS provides that this “stays considerably decrease than the 78.0 per cent reported in the course of the quarter ending December 2019, previous to the start of the pandemic”.
It’s additionally properly beneath the Scotland-wide goal to deal with 90 per cent of sufferers inside this time.
And there’s one other drawback with this stat: it solely tells us in regards to the individuals who have already begun therapy. It says nothing in regards to the folks nonetheless ready to be seen or to start out therapy.
‘Upward pattern’ in sufferers ready to be seen
Scotland’s NHS has one other key goal: that sufferers ought to be seen by a specialist inside 12 weeks of a GP referral.
As of 31 December (the most recent accessible information) simply over 480,000 sufferers in Scotland have been ready for this primary appointment. PHS says this represents “a slight enhance in comparison with the tip of the earlier quarter”.
It describes an “upward pattern” within the ready checklist since March 2020, noting that the most recent determine is 88 per cent increased than when the pandemic started. That’s an additional 225,350 sufferers ready to be seen.
Extra folks ready for hospital admission
And the variety of sufferers ready to be admitted to hospital for therapy is up too.
On the final day of 2022, the determine stood at 144,000. That’s “a slight enhance of two,208” for the reason that earlier quarter, PHS says.
And it factors out that that is 22 per cent increased than on the finish of 2021, and 87 per cent increased than within the months earlier than Covid struck.
Humza Yousaf claimed in parliament that NHS ready instances in Scotland are “bettering”.
It seems like he’s referring to the variety of folks ready greater than two years for an appointment with a specialist or to start out therapy. It’s doable to see enchancment in these excessively lengthy waits within the newest accessible information, relying on which dates you employ to make the comparability.
However on different key metrics, Scotland’s NHS ready lists are displaying solely very slight enchancment and even getting worse.
The variety of folks nonetheless ready to be seen by a specialist has risen within the newest information, and is 88 per cent increased than it was simply earlier than Covid hit. The variety of folks ready to be admitted to hospital is up too.
A Scottish authorities spokesperson advised FactCheck: “We should recognise the large affect the pandemic has had on our well being service, with the pausing of all non-emergency therapy resulting in deliberate care delays and a rise in waits. We’ll proceed to scale back backlogs via regional and nationwide working, defending elective care and our Nationwide Therapy Centre programme.”