Managing Waiting Times: A Good Practice Guide

A guide for the NHS and others on good practice in managing waiting times and capacity planning



Improving waiting times is a key priority for the NHS in Scotland. Patients expect to wait less for treatment and reasonable waiting times are indicative of a well-managed and efficient health service. This guidance supports the recommendations of the Audit Scotland report, "Review of the Management of Waiting Lists in Scotland" and builds on the commitments in the White Paper "Partnership for Care". The approach outlined is about achieving sustainable reductions in waiting times and planning services through a "whole systems approach" from initial contact in primary care through to discharge from hospital.

"Partnership for Care" signalled a step change in the way in which we collect and record information for our outpatient services. Collecting information about outpatient referrals and recording and understanding how our outpatient waiting lists perform is vital to the delivery of services. With good information, communication with the patient, the GP and hospital practitioners can be improved. Good information also enables NHS Boards to act quickly where there are service deficiencies, and to plan and deliver services which meet national and local targets.

I believe that every patient has the right to expect treatment within a reasonable period of time. Delivering an improvement in waiting times and meeting our national standards is a key responsibility for all those involved in the care of patients. Improving waiting times is therefore about partnership between different parts of the health service, and particularly about partnership between primary and secondary care.

This Good Practice Guide provides a summary of accepted good practice in the management of waiting times. The approach is straightforward and emphasises the active management of waiting times in a structured and methodical way. This guidance is designed to support the outpatient action plan and the change and innovation programme in general.

I commend it to the service.


Trevor Jones
Chief Executive of the Health Service in Scotland

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