Letter: Hospital waiting times lack logic

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The Independent Online
Sir:Polly Toynbee has aired an important issue (12 February). She points out that one of the dilemmas currently facing the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority is that the waiting time for some cardiac procedures at some hospitals within their area is extremely long. The authority is apparently trying to decide whether they should warn patients of the anticipated waits for life-saving procedures. However, here at King's College Hospital, which is also within the health authority's area, the waiting times for operations such as coronary angiography, angioplasty and bypass grafts are amongst the shortest in the country.

Logic would dictate that if different hospitals within the same health authority area have amongst the longest and shortest waiting times for life-saving procedures, then the health authority should arrange for transfer of patients (and adjustment of contracts) from the long waiting list to the short.

Because of financial constraints, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority's response to this problem is to propose reducing cardiology contracts (and therefore operations) at King's College Hospital. Therefore, waiting times here will lengthen and patients will face the same risks and distress as they do elsewhere. King's patients enjoy high-quality cardiac services and waiting times which are comparable with those in most other western countries. The current financial crisis faced by the health authority potentially means that this model of appropriate cardiac care is to be eroded to the lowest common denominator.

Dr MARK J MONAGHAN

Care Group Director for Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Services

Dr DAVID JEWITT

Consultant Cardiologist and Executive Medical Director

King's College Hospital

London SE5

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