Chronic pain patients not being seen within 18-week waiting target

More than a third of chronic pain patients had to wait more than 18 weeks for their first appointment after being referred, official figures suggest.

According to statistics published by ISD Scotland, about 1,168 patients (36.2%) out of a total of 4,742 people, waited more than 18 weeks for their first appointment.

A total of 2,059 patients who had been referred were seen in under 18 weeks.

On March 31, there was a total of 654 (13.8%) patients who were still waiting for their first appointment and had been waiting for more than 18 weeks.

The figures also indicated that 1,716 patients were removed from a waiting list for reasons other than being seen, with 387 (11.3%) of those patients removed because they did not attend their first appointment and did not notify the hospital.

The Scottish Government introduced an 18-week standard for being seen for an appointment in 2011.

Scottish Labour has demanded a review of chronic pain waiting times, with the party’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon saying it was “scandalous” that some patients were having to wait more than four months for an appointment.

“Chronic pain waiting times have shown no sign of improvement and now seem to be getting worse,” said Ms Lennon.

“It’s scandalous that thousands of Scots in chronic pain have to wait over four months to be seen for their first appointment, and it’s clear that this needs urgent attention.

“The SNP government must review why this is happening, and answer tough questions about why, after twelve years in government, chronic pain waiting times are getting worse instead of better.”

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said the Government was aware that there were areas for improvement.

He said: “Living with chronic pain can be incredibly difficult for sufferers and we are determined to improve services for all those affected.

“I want to thank all staff for their continued hard work and dedication to delivering these services.

“There are areas in Scotland where everyone referred to a pain clinic for their first treatment appointment is seen within the 18-week standard.”

He added: “However, we know that in some areas there is a need for improvement and we will continue to work with relevant NHS boards to improve performance.

“Scotland is the only part of the UK to routinely publish this data, which is a clear sign of our commitment to making improvements for people living with chronic pain.

“The Scottish Government has also funded essential work at the University of Dundee to improve the breadth, consistency and quality of chronic pain data available.

“This work will help to develop the necessary high-quality data required to drive improvements to services and reduce waiting times.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “This is yet another truly depressing set of figures from the SNP’s health service.

“The SNP’s failure is forcing thousands of patients to wait longer in pain and suffering.

“These waiting times are extremely frustrating for doctors and nurses also.

“The health secretary’s promised resources and action plans to tackle these endless waiting times are not working.

“This is just another worrying demonstration of the SNP’s inability to run a health service that meets the needs of patients or staff.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “For patients battling chronic pain day in, day out, these long waits for treatment must be excruciating.

“Hundreds of people are being made to wait months for help with chronic pain that in many cases is seriously limiting their lives.

“The Health Secretary must do more than just sympathise. She needs to alleviate the pressure on our hardworking NHS professionals by giving them the support and resources they need to get the job done.”

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