New website to help patients and NHS staff check hospital waiting times

‘Waiting list data has not been hidden for all these years for any good practical reason,’ activist behind website says

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Monday 07 June 2021 10:55 BST
The NHS is facing record waiting lists
The NHS is facing record waiting lists (Getty Images)

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A group of patient activists has set up a new website using official NHS data to allow patients to check the waiting times for treatments at their local hospital.

The new waiting times tool is thought to be the first automated and regularly updated website that shows hospital performance against key waiting time targets, by medical specialty such as cardiology or orthopaedics.

The service, developed by volunteers from the not-for-profit Patient Experience Library, not only shows patients how many people are waiting to be treated overall but also shows data on the median waiting time as well as how well the hospital is performing against targets over time.

Patients can also compare different hospitals and look at the performance of the NHS in England overall. Wait times for mental health services are treated separately and not included.

Miles Sibley, co-founder of the Patient Experience Library, said the website was an attempt to bring transparency to NHS England’s “impenetrable spreadsheets” which not only affected patients but also other NHS staff who told Sibley they spend hours downloading data and working out their organisations performance.

He said: “Waiting list data has not been hidden for all these years for any good practical reason. We are showing that it is entirely feasible to present the data in ways that anyone can understand."

He claims the website can be updated within an hour of NHS England publishing new data.

The health service is facing huge backlogs for treatment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The total waiting list has now reached almost five million patients, its biggest size since 2007. More than 430,000 patients have waited over a year for routine treatment.

Half of the general public, according to Ipsos Mori, see "improving waiting times for routine operations" as the top priority in healthcare.

Sibley added: “We know the experience of being on a waiting list is difficult for people. It can increase their anxiety and people are often in pain and sometimes people feel they have been forgotten about. We hope this can help people to see what the current waiting times are for the treatment they need at their local trust. It’s about transparency to try and improve the patient experience.

“We also hope it will be helpful for GPs so they can very quickly see the local situation. There are huge backlogs and long waiting times are likely to be a fact of life in the future. What we need is a grown-up dialogue about that.”

Patient Experience Library is a free resource that has no core funding and does not take advertising and has no grants.

It collates the evidence around patient experience and public involvement in healthcare in an effort to help create more patient centred services.

The library is hosted by Glenstall IT, a small software developer with 20 years of experience in tailor-made information systems for the public and charitable sectors.

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