Norfolk hospital in move to cut long-term waiting list
The head of a Norfolk hospital has taken the decision to move those waiting longest for surgery to the front of the queue - even if it means the hospital is classed as "failing".
Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital chief executive Anna Dugdale said the decision was "common sense".
Due to the move the hospital failed a target for two months to treat 90% of patients within 18-weeks of referral.
The government has said it is keeping targets under review.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter said: "I remember working in A&E and sometimes a person with a broken toe was a greater priority than someone with chest pains - which is potentially life-threatening - because of the targets which the government has started to change."'Teams' hard work'
Mrs Dugdale said breaching the target was worth it as it has meant the number of patients waiting over 18 weeks from their GP referral to treatment at the hospital has been more than halved in a year and is now at the lowest level ever.
At the end of May 2012, 533 patients were waiting over 18 weeks for treatment after seeing their GP, which is the maximum waiting time permitted by the NHS.
That figure has been reduced by almost two thirds and of the 5,078 patients currently waiting for treatment, only 185 are waiting over 18 weeks.
Mrs Dugdale said: "This is a testament to the hard work of our administrative, clinical and management teams, who together, have made this possible.
"With the agreement of our commissioners we have been booking in longest waiters first, because we believe it's the right thing to do for our patients."
She said it was a "remarkable achievement" in the face of a "huge surge" in emergency admissions between mid-February and mid-April.
"Waiting for treatment can be a worrying time for patients and we intend to build on this achievement and bring these numbers down ever further so that our patients receive the best quality treatment as quickly as possible," she added.