Bath review casts doubt on waiting lists

9 May 02
External managers have been sent into the Royal United Hospital in Bath following the disclosure of poor financial management and the possible falsification of waiting lists.

10 May 2002

The trust's chair Gerald Chown has resigned and finance director Martin Dove has been suspended. Chief executive Richard Gleave will remain since the revelations relate to events under his predecessor, Barbara Harris.

The Bath review, undertaken by senior NHS managers, found patients were inappropriately suspended from waiting lists and that breaches of waiting targets were not reported, though it stops short of saying the lists were deliberately altered.

Patients did not appear to have been put at risk, the review says, but they would have been seen sooner had the extent of waiting times been known.

The trust's financial position deteriorated sharply over 2001/02 because it lacked a meaningful recovery plan and had taken on new commitments without ensuring they were affordable. It started the year with a potential deficit of £4m and ended with a projected £17m debt.

A team from the Department of Health's Directorate of Health and Social Care for the South has been sent in to improve waiting list management. Robert Tinston, former director of the NHS North West Region, will carry out a disciplinary investigation.

NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp said waiting list manipulation was rare. The Audit Commission and the DoH would perform spot checks on waiting list information beginning this month, he added.

'When waiting list manipulation does happen, we are determined to come down hard on those who perpetrate it,' he said.

The investigation was set up following last December's National Audit Office report highlighting inappropriate adjustments to waiting lists at nine trusts. The allegations centred on the suspension of patients from lists.

The NAO also asked the DoH to investigate 13 other trusts, including Bath, where more than 10% of patients were suspended and more than 2% had waited longer than 12 months.

The department review found no suspicious waiting list adjustments at the 12 other trusts.


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