LETTER: Equal care in Sheffield

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The Independent Online
From Mr Kevan Taylor

Sir: You recently ran an article on Harriet Harman's use of "prospective" waiting times published by Central Sheffield University Hospitals ("Queues reveal 'two-tier' NHS", 6 February). This information appeared to indicate that there were very significant differences in waiting times for first outpatient appointments for fundholder and non-fundholder patients in Sheffield. In some cases, for example orthopaedics, these purported to show an almost fourfold difference.

These figures were in fact estimates calculated by the hospital. The facts about the current situation are shown in the fully validated waiting time data for December 1995. This data shows that at the end of December 85 per cent of fundholder patients and 83 per cent of non-fundholder patients had been waiting less than 13 weeks at Central Sheffield University Hospitals. The overall figures were only marginally different.

Indeed in the case of orthopaedics, partly as a result of the additional pounds 230,000 that we have invested at that hospital this year, the situation was marginally better for non-fundholders: 81 per cent of their patients had been waiting for less than 13 weeks, compared to 74 per cent for GP fundholder patients.

Sheffield Health is committed to improving health care for all people in the city and actively addressing issues of equitability. There are no marked differences in access times for fundholder and non-fundholder patients.

Yours faithfully,

Kevan Taylor

Head of Contracting

Sheffield Health


8 February