According to the Committee, although hospital trusts have been successful in meeting the 18-week waiting time standards for non-emergency care, public trust has been shaken because trusts have been recording the information erroneously.
“Trusts are struggling with a hotchpotch of IT and paper-based systems that are not easily pulled together, which makes it difficult for trusts to track and collate the information needed to manage and record patient waiting times,” claimed Margaret Hodge, PAC Chair.
Hodge noted that a National Audit Office (NAO) review found that in seven trusts, nearly a third of cases could not support waiting times with documented evidence.
She also mentioned that the management of waiting times is complex and although this allows the NHS flexibility in how they manage them, this creates differences that reduce the comparability of data.
For example, there are variations in the number of cancellations a patient is allowed to make before being referred back to their GP, essentially setting the clock back to zero, across the trusts.
PAC also criticised the way the NHS has handled its new Choose and Book appointment system that allows patients to book and change hospital appointments online.
In its 54th report, it said that service was a “missed opportunity” and “we are sceptical about [Choose and Book’s] ability to achieve full utilisation of e-Referrals.
The Parliamentary Committee recommended that the health service develops clear plans for how it intends to build up confidence and utilisation of the new system.