Scotland politics

NHS Scotland boss says sorry to patients waiting for treatment

Paul Gray, chief executive of Scottish NHS
Image caption Paul Gray, chief executive of Scottish NHS, said patients should not be waiting longer than the targets that have been set

The chief executive of the NHS in Scotland, Paul Gray, has said sorry to those patients who have had to wait longer than they should for treatment.

He made his apology during an evidence session to MSPs on Holyrood's health committee.

Last week watchdog Audit Scotland reported that the Scottish NHS had met only one of its eight key waiting time targets last year.

MSPs also heard from Scotland's Health Secretary Shona Robison.

She said she wanted all patients to be treated quickly and efforts were being made to improve the system in order to cut the amount of time patients wait.

The committee's convener, Labour's Neil Findlay, quizzed Mr Gray on the Audit Scotland report, asking if he thought it was a "glowing endorsement" of NHS management in Scotland.

The health chief said he was "not after glowing endorsements" and added that he accepted the recommendations of the "balanced" report.

Mr Gray went on to tell the committee: "I apologise to patients who wait longer than they should - I have done so in the past. I regard it as appropriate and proper that I should do so.

"It is not what we seek that patients should wait longer than the targets that we have set, but if I may say on the eight targets we are, as far as I can determine and I have done some research, the only country in the world that tries to meet all eight of these targets."

He added that while the health budget had increased, he did not think it was unreasonable to ask boards to make efficiency savings.

'Vast majority treated quickly'

The Scottish government has asked former chief medical officer Sir Harry Burns to conduct a review of targets and indicators in the NHS.

Ms Robison believed that progress against waiting targets should be viewed in the context of increasing funding, but also rising demand.

She said: "If you look at outpatient demands, for example, increasing over the years, despite those huge increases in demands... most people are still being treated within the 12 weeks target for a first outpatient consultation.

"Also in terms of inpatient waits, 91.2% of inpatients were treated within the 12-week treatment time guarantee for quarter two of this year.

"That isn't good enough, we want everybody to be treated quickly, but I think it's important to make the point that the vast majority of patients are still treated quickly within the NHS.

"What we need to do is to make sure through our transformation programme we improve that performance in a sustainable way."

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