Headlines: August 8th, 2000

Hit squads from the newly formed Modernisation Agency will descend this week on seven NHS trusts performing poorly at getting outpatient waiting lists down. The seven trusts account for 25% of the rise in hospital waiting lists in the quarter ending in June. Across the country, patients waiting more than 13 weeks to see a consultant rose by 42, 000Although the creation of the Modernisation Agency was only announced in the NHS 10 year plan on 27 July 2000 it has been possible to put teams together quickly by drafting in the National Patient Access Team. They will form the core of the Agency. The Team has made over 100 visits to trusts over the last two years to help hospitals bring down their waiting times.

The approach of the hit squads will be to look for underused capacity created, for example, by patients are not appearing for appointments. Non appearance often results from appointment being made months earlier with no further contact between patient and hospital. The non appearance rate can be reduced dramatically by setting up a call centre and making partial bookings which are then confirmed as the appointment day gets near. Other measures that can reduce waiting include improving data collection, analysis and validation; reviewing clinic processes and revising training for staff involved in outpatient service