HOSPITAL bosses have ordered urgent checks on the records of more than 13,000 people after discovering a patient had waited 66 weeks for an operation.
Managers at the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust have declared a serious incident over the major breach of key NHS targets.
They have now uncovered five more people who have also waited more than a year for treatment and fear as many as a dozen patients have faced delays of more than 12 months, blaming outdated practices used by staff for the problems.
A team of experts from NHS England has been called in to carry out checks after the discovery of the long wait faced by the patient who is said not to have been harmed by the lengthy delay and has now undergone their operation. The patient is believed to have been referred for treatment in the autumn of 2013.
A total of six patients have so far been found to have waited beyond 52 weeks. Officials say all are being traced and monitored and their care is being fast-tracked.
A further 15 patients have also been identified who have waited between 18 weeks and a year.
The trust says all patients facing delays had been assessed and their health had not been compromised due to their waits, although it admits their experience was “very poor”.
Chief operating officer Chris Holt said: “Following a routine validation of a number of our referral to treatment patient pathways, we identified a patient that had been waiting longer than 52 weeks following referral to the trust.
“We immediately contacted the patient affected to apologise, and put plans in place to ensure they were seen as a matter of urgency.
“In order to make sure this was not a widespread problem, we instigated an immediate review into 13,000 patient records and have so far checked 11,500, and identified five further patients that have been affected.
“We have been in immediate contact with all affected patients to apologise and are making sure they are treated as a priority for the trust.
“The remaining 1,500 patient records will continue to be reviewed and this should be complete in March.
“This situation has come about as a result of outdated practices that have since been changed and we are confident going forward that such delays will not be repeated.
“We have also received support from the NHS intensive support team, who have agreed to work with the trust to see that we adopt the best practices available going forward.”
Latest figures show that 93.4 per cent of patients at the trust referred for day-case or inpatient treatment received it within 18 weeks in January, within the target of treating 90 per cent of non-urgent cases in 18 weeks.
A report today to a meeting of the trust’s board of directors said that once the review of 13,559 patient records had been carried out, further checks would be undertaken on the wider management of the 18-week waiting list programme. An action plan would be drawn up in the spring.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last year ordered a purge of “unacceptable” long waits for treatment, triggering an unprecedented suspension of waiting list targets in a £250m bid to perform 100,000 extra procedures on people waiting in excess of 18 weeks.
Latest figures have shown that fewer than 400 people in England had waited more than 12 months for treatment in December, down from 20,000 in September 2011.
Some long-waiters do so out of choice or for clinical reasons.