NHS Borders has achieved the national target when it comes to the length of time it takes for patients in the region to be treated.
Figures published earlier this week by the Information Services Division showed that 92 per cent of patients in Scotland were seen and treated within 18 weeks from initial referral to start of treatment, meeting the 90 per cent target which came into force on December 31.
NHS Borders bettered this benchmark - set at 90 to take account that some patient pathways are more complex than others - in all but two months of last year, with an average of 91.4 per cent of patients’ journeys being completed in an 18 week period.
The board exceeded the Scottish average on five occasions: in September when a rate of 92.5 per cent was recorded; in August when 92.5 per cent of patient journeys were completed within 18 weeks; in July with 92.2 per cent; June with a 2011 high of 93.6 per cent and in January last year with 92.2 per cent.
The number of patients in the region whose path from referral to treatment exceeded 18 weeks was highest in March, when a figure of 194 was recorded and lowest in January with 108.
Commenting on the results, Jane Davidson, NHS Borders chief operating officer, said: “NHS Borders delivered the 18 week Referral to Treatment target in May 2011 ahead of the December 2011 target date.
“Our staff are committed to quality patient care and there has been a huge amount of work from our staff in achieving this and in sustaining that level of performance and commitment to patients.
“What it means for patients is that the longest most will have to wait from being referred by their GP and starting treatment will be 18 weeks. This means prompt attention at the right time and in the right place and earlier relief of symptoms.”
Addressing the picture nationally, health secretary Nicola Sturgeon commented: “We know what patients want – quick access to treatment, delivered as locally as possible. That is why I am pleased to confirm that we have delivered on our target of ensuring patients are treated in 18 weeks or less.
“There has been a tremendous effort across the health service to get us to this point and I would like to congratulate everyone involved.
“This radical target has required the NHS to completely change internal systems so links are in place for each patient to be seen in the right care setting at the right time.
“Now, rather than having individual waits for consultations and tests, this target will focus on the patient’s whole journey from GP referral to treatment. This is the best way to ensure patients get the very best quality of care.
“It is important to remember just how much progress has been made.
“In 2007 over 29,000 people were stuck on ‘hidden waiting lists’ not getting the treatment they needed and the maximum wait to get an appointment was six months.
“Meeting our 18 weeks referral to treatment target demonstrates what the NHS can achieve by protecting the founding principles of the National Health Service and Scottish patients are reaping the benefits.”
Additional figures measuring current targets, also published by ISD, show that at December 31, 97.1 per cent of patients nationwide were waiting less than 12 weeks for their first outpatient appointment and 93.3 per cent were waiting less than nine weeks for inpatient/day case treatment. In addition, 97.2 per cent of patients are waiting less than six weeks for one of the eight key diagnostic tests.
From October 2012 patients requiring inpatient or day case treatment will be covered by a 12 week Treatment Time Guarantee enshrined in law which will apply every day of the year.