Saturday, April 11, 2009

What Waiting List? A followup.

I received an insightful comment from Anonymous in response to my post on Waiting Lists. My reply follows.

Anonymous said...
I disagree with the assumption that waiting list manipulation doesn't change how long patients wait for operations.

If we use a lie (using stats) to say there is no waiting list problem then additional resources will not be allocated and ignore attempts at increasing real efficiency. This means that real waiting times may increase along with losses in quality of life, patient productivity, increased complications and increased cost of care. It’s not just the usual cost of the operation but all the related costs before and after that don’t show up in the hospital stats.

Differences in the delay of processing of forms will change the order when patients are seen.

Dear Anonymous (why are there so many people called Anonymous???),

I would agree wholeheartedly with you if the statistics were actually used for resource planning - unfortunately as far as I can tell they are only used as a political football. I am not saying that sitting on waiting list forms is a great thing to do, just that we live and work in a pragmatic world and have to get on with things.

I remember clearly in a chat with a friend who was a government lackey a few years ago why we don't look at more useful KPIs - the response was that there was no interest in measuring a KPI unless it was a number that could be improved upon and promoted in a media release.

Efficiency is squeezed to its limit already - there is no efficiency gain to be realised. Our driver at the coalface is the desire to treat patients as best we can, not to meet arbitrary targets or make the Minister look good. The only thing that can be improved upon is more capacity by capital investment - and this will never happen because placing a chokehold on capacity is the only way to limit ongoing costs! Just like the logic that if we have fewer doctors the health budget will be smaller. Bugger the patients.

As for differences in delay of processing forms... all the forms for our specialty went through me. It didn't matter how long I sat on them, or when I put them on the list, or when I received them. I filled out the forms, I submitted the forms, I reviewed the waiting list, and I booked and scheduled patients into theatre where I then operated on them.

Patients were prioritised by me on the basis of firstly clinical need, secondly resource availability, and waiting time came a very distant third. The patients were more frustrated by delays and cancellations on the day of operation than an extra week after 2 years of waiting. This is what happens every day in every hospital I have worked at. How about yours?

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