Patient 'removed' from waiting list to meet target

A LOTHIAN woman was told she was being taken off a consultant's waiting list so the target 18-week waiting time for treatment could be met, it was claimed today.

Liberal Democrat leader Nicol Stephen today used the case as an example of what he said was a "shocking and scandalous situation".

First Minister Alex Salmond said both he and his health secretary Nicola Sturgeon would look into the matter.

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Mr Stephen raised the issue with the First Minister the day after Ms Sturgeon announced all Scotland's health boards have hit their waiting-time targets.

The health secretary said yesterday progress reports suggested that by the end of December all health boards had delivered on their targets – including no patient waiting more than 18 weeks for inpatient or day-case treatment.

But at First Minister's Questions Mr Stephen said a patient - a middle-aged woman from Midlothian - had received a letter informing her that she was being removed from a consultant's waiting list in a bid to meet the 18-week target.

He said the woman, who was waiting to have liposuction at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for a condition which causes fatty deposits to build up on the legs, had been told by the doctor: "I am afraid I am writing to inform you of some bad news.

"I have been instructed by hospital management to remove your name from my waiting list. The prime reason for this decision relates to the 18-week target for patient treatment which is now in enforcement.

"I currently have a significant number of patients in breach of this and the simple solution by management is to reduce my waiting lists by removing patients' names."

Mr Stephen hit out: "This is a shocking and scandalous situation – achieving the First Minister's targets by dumping patients off the list."

And he asked the First Minister: "Will he promise to end this manipulation of the figures and ensure that those patients who have been devastated by letters like this now receive treatment from his government."

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Mr Salmond said he and Ms Sturgeon would be "delighted" to look into the case.

And he said they would "deal with anything that affects that individual patient that might have been wrongly done".

The First Minister told Mr Stephen they would take action when they received details of the case.

"He supplies us with the details and we will take the effective action that this government is known for and his government was notably absent in taking," Mr Salmond said.

A Scottish Government spokesman said later that the letter had been sent in December, before the abolition of hidden waiting lists on January 1.

And he claimed it was an example of the practice of moving people off the main waiting list that was allowed under the system inherited from the previous administration.

The spokesman confirmed Ms Sturgeon will now contact the health boards involved to discover the specific circumstances of the case.