Operation waiting times to be cut

Patients who need orthopaedic operations such as hip replacements are having lengthy waiting times reduced. Orthopaedics, which deals with muscle and skeletal problems, has traditionally had some of the longest waiting times in the NHS.

Patients who need orthopaedic operations such as hip replacements are having lengthy waiting times reduced.

Orthopaedics, which deals with muscle and skeletal problems, has traditionally had some of the longest waiting times in the NHS.

After a national drive to improve the service, including a national 18-week maximum waiting time target for all operations, things have been getting better.

But until now, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has still had longer waiting times for orthopaedics - it met the 18-week target on average across all departments by the December deadline, but not in orthopaedics.


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Figures for February are expected to confirm that it met the deadline in orthopaedics too.

This has been managed partly by referring hundreds of patients for treatment in private hospitals, including Spire Hospital in Cambridge, Nuffield Hospital in Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds BMI hospital.

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From January 2008 to January 2009, 1,597 central Norfolk patients were sent to the private sector.

The NHS pays the same rates to private hospitals as to its own hospitals.

At the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, the 18-week target is already being met.

As reported last week, NHS Yarmouth and Waveney, which commissions the services, is aiming for a maximum 16-week wait by the end of March.

John Turner, interim director of performance, now says that it wants to reduce the waiting time further to no more than 12 weeks by the end of next year.

But the target in the rest of Norfolk, which is covered by a different health trust, NHS Norfolk, is staying at 18 weeks.

The issues will be discussed at Norfolk's overview and scrutiny committee in Lynn today.

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