Inpatient and Outpatient Waiting Times Figures

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Inpatient Waiting times

- The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 26 weeks at the end of December 2006 was 138. Of these 138, 19 were English residents waiting in Welsh hospitals.

- The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 20 weeks at the end of December 2006 was 46,000, an increase of 2,000 from November 2006.

- The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 13 weeks at the end of December 2006 was 181,500, an increase of 15,700 (9.5%) from November, but a fall of 5,400 (2.9%) from December 2005.

- The percentage of patients waiting under 13 weeks was 76.2%, compared to 78.1% in November and 75.7% in December 2005. The median waiting time of those still waiting at the end of December 2006 was 7.4 weeks.

Outpatient Waiting times

- The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 13 weeks for a first outpatient appointment at the end of December 2006 was 152. Of these 152, 119 were English residents waiting in Welsh hospitals.

- The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 11 weeks at the end of December 2006 was 24,700, up 2,700 from November 2006.

- The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 8 weeks at the end of December 2006 was 153,300, an increase of 16,600 (12.2%) from November, but a fall of 67,400 (30.5%) from December 2005.

- The percentage of patients waiting under 8 weeks was 84.7%, compared to 86.9% in November and 81.1% in December 2005. The median waiting time of those still waiting at the end of December 2006 was 4.2 weeks.

Statistical Notes

1. Inpatient waiting times

Waiting times information is collected from English Primary Care Trusts on a responsible population basis and from NHS Trusts on a provider basis.

In interpreting the figures it should be noted that about half of patients (not including live babies) treated in hospitals are emergency cases and do not come from the waiting lists.

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This publication contains waiting list information on patients who are waiting to be admitted for treatment either as a day case or ordinary admission. It does not include:

- patients admitted as emergency cases
- outpatients
- patients undergoing a planned programme of treatment e.g. a series of admissions for chemotherapy
- expectant mothers booked for confinement
- patients already in hospital but included on other waiting lists
- patients who are temporarily suspended from waiting lists for social reasons or because they are known to be not medically ready for treatment

Waiting times begin from the date the clinician decided to admit the patient. Patients subsequently offered a date but unable to attend have their waiting times calculated from the most recent date offered. These are known as self-deferred cases and are included in the total waiting.

The tables include an element of estimation and incorporate all returns and amendments received from Primary Care Trusts and NHS Trusts up to 31st January 2007.

2. Outpatient waiting times

This publication relates to patients referred by a GP (medical or dental) for a consultant led first outpatient appointment. It does not include:

- patients referred by consultants and other health professionals;
- self referrals and attendances at 'drop in' clinics;
- referrals resulting in ward attendances for nursing care;
- referrals initiated by the consultant in charge of the clinic.

Waiting times begin from the receipt of a GP referral and end on the date of the 1st outpatient appointment.

3. Provider and Commissioner based lists

There are fundamental differences in coverage between commissioner based and provider based information. Commissioner based returns exclude all patients living outside England and all privately funded patients waiting for treatment in NHS hospitals. However they do include NHS funded patients, living in England, who are waiting for treatment in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, abroad, and at private hospitals; these patients are not included in the corresponding hospital based returns. Historically there has been a 1% to 3% difference in the overall size of the waiting lists reported for NHS provider trusts and English residents, the trust-based figure being the larger.

The differences are summarised in the diagram below:
Commissioner based returns reflect responsible based populations, which is defined as:

Responsible Population:

- all those patients resident within the PCT boundary; plus
- all patients registered with GPs who are members of the PCT, but are resident in another PCT; minus
- All patients resident in the PCT, but registered with a GP who is a member of another PCT

4. Note on median waits

Median waiting times are calculated from aggregate data, rather than patient level data, and therefore are only estimates of the position on average waits. They represent the median waiting time for patients still waiting for admission (or for 1st outpatient appointment) at the end of the month.

The introduction of weekly timebands in April 2006 has enabled a more precise calculation of the median waiting time, whilst using the same methodology. Between April 2004 and March 2006, data were collected in monthly timebands, and prior to this in 3 monthly timebands. As the latest figures are calculated from weekly timebands (and more accurate), they are not strictly comparable to previous years.

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