The chances of getting a hospital outpatient appointment have dropped below 50% for some specialities, figures reveal.
Now hospital chiefs at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust have outlined a plan to improve after admitting that hundreds of patients that try to book an appointment are unable to get one.
The issue was highlighted earlier this month by chairman of Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (GHCCG), Dr Steve Ollerton.
Dr Ollerton, said the lack of availability of outpatient appointments at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) and Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH) was forcing patients to choose the region’s private hospitals.
The NHS constitution allows patients to choose from both NHS and private hospitals when referred by their GP.
A report to the Trust’s board yesterday shows people with eye problems were the worst hit after a chronic shortage of doctors meant almost 56% of patients – 272 out of 487 – failed to get an appointment at the first attempt in March.
Almost a third of women needing breast scans were also unable to book in, while the chance of getting a dermatology referral in April was about one in two, leading to the complete closure of the service to GP referrals except for suspected skin cancer patients.
Cardiology appointment slot issues also flared in April with 46 of the 182 referrals failing to book in to see a heart doctor.
Children’s, orthopaedics and gastroenterology have also been highlighted as problem areas.
The contract between GHCCG and CHFT requires failed appointment levels to be below 5%.
The Trust says it hasn’t met the 5% standard at any point in the last 12 months but hopes to sort the problem by October.
The report shows CHFT has the second worst performance in West Yorkshire this year after Mid Yorkshire, which runs Dewsbury, Pinderfields and Pontefract hospitals.
Hospital bosses say continued under-performance could lead to health commissioners spending money elsewhere and have outlined a plan to improve, including extra clinics, Saturday clinics and additional doctors.
Rory Deighton from Healthwatch Kirklees said: “Healthwatch Kirklees recognises that online booking systems in both of our hospital trusts have not worked as well as they should have done this year.
“Patients tell us every week that they are worried about changes to the way that the NHS is funded and organised and will be concerned that more money is being spent in private hospitals.”
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