You remember those nice chaps at Tactix4 who produced the interactive maps showing who was hitting their 4-hour A&E Targets? Well, as they promised, they have been fiddling with even MORE lovely maps, this time showing who is hitting their 18-week targets.
Check out this glorious 18-week Referral to Treatment Target Map.
Now you would have to have a heart of stone not to love this map. Not only can you see the general results for each Trust, but you can also drill down, using the handy drop-down menu, and see how each Trust is faring by specialty! Go and have a fiddle RIGHT NOW!
What are these 18-week targets?
Along with the 4-hour target for A&E, the 18-week target is one of the main ways that local health service performance is measured.
The 18-week target meant that patients referred from a GP for further treatment (e.g. to a consultant) had to start that treatment within 18 weeks. This target was brought in because patients would sometimes have to wait a very long time (months or even years!) for treatment to start. An 18-week wait is still quite a long time – but this is the longest wait allowed. Many patients would be seen in a much shorter timeframe.
There is a good Q&A on the 18-week target on the NHS Choices website.
As I’ve mentioned before, these current targets are being replaced from April 2011 with eight new “clinical quality indicators”. These new indicators will include ‘patient experience’, ‘effectiveness of care’ and ‘patient safety’.
Have the 18-week Targets been scrapped then?
No, the 18-week targets have not been scrapped, but this target is no longer being ‘actively performanced managed’ and hospitals are no longer face penalties if these targets are missed. But waiting times are not really supposed to be increasing. NHS chief Sir David Nicholson wrote in a recent letter to staff:
“Let me be clear that the government has stated its strong support for the rights in the NHS Constitution, which established patients’ right to access services within maximum waiting times or to be offered a range of alternative providers if this is not possible.”
So while this target may no longer be measured, referral for treatment within 18 weeks still remains a right for all patients.
Are waiting times in the NHS Constitution?
Yes! The NHS Constitution became law in January 2010. It brings together in one place details of what staff, patients and the public can expect from the NHS. It sets out the rights of patients and makes clear what patients can expect from the NHS. This includes maximum waiting times.
(You can read a good summary of the NHS Constitution on the NHS Choices website.)
Where is the data on these maps from?
The data comes from the statistics provided by each Acute Trust, which are sent to the Department of Health each month. (See the DH page for this data.) (For more info about the Acute Trusts, see my previous post on the 4-hour A&E Target maps.)
The data on these maps is the ‘admitted’ data – i.e. it shows the wait for patients who were admitted for treatment. Tactix4 explain:
The performance map shows how long people have waited for treatment. The figures used are those relating to patients treated in the last month for which data is available. The figures reflect the specialty selected, and look at patients whose RTT pathways ended in admission for treatment.
Of course, lots of patients won’t need to be admitted, and will just be treated as outpatients. Tactix4 are hoping to make this data available soon as well!
What to do with this data:
Have a good play with the maps. Find your local trust and see how it is performing against the 18-week target. Green means that 100% of patients are being seen within the target; amber means that over 95% are seen within the target (95% is the old official ‘target’, so this is okay). Red means that less than 95% are being seen within the target waiting times.
If you are receiving issues from members of the public about waiting times at a particular hospital, you could check this map for some more definitive data. And if your local Trust is missing its targets, then we need to find out why.
For the future, as I said with the 4-hour target maps, this sort of interactive mapping has huge potential for patient choice – for which Local HealthWatch will be responsible.
A patient might want to know which access to this sort of information in order to decide which A&E department to attend. ‘Do you want to be seen quickly?’ – then chose the hospital which meets waiting time targets. ‘Do you want a hospital with a good reputation?’ – then chose the hospital which has good reports on Patient Opinion… This gives you an idea of how the data might be useful for patients wanting to exercise choice.
So have a good look around these maps – and if you can think of ways that they can be made more user-friendly, or more useful for LINks, let me know and I will pass your ideas back to Tactix4!
Thanks again to Tactix4 for some fantastic mapping. 🙂