Failure to meet NHS referral targets due to ‘staff sickness and maternity leave’, say bosses

Health chiefs hope to meet targets this month. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire
Health chiefs hope to meet targets this month. Photo: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Care bosses have attributed failing to reach patient referral targets to staff being absent with sickness and on maternity leave.

Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) revealed it failed to reach the target for number of patients waiting more than six weeks from referral for a diagnostic test.

The target for the CCG is 1% however they recorded a rate of 4.08% for the first month of the financial year.

This is also above the national average which is 1.6%.

A report from Lisa Tempest, director of planning, performance and assurance at the CCG, said a recovery is expected by August and actions have been taken.

Speaking at the CCG governing body meeting, she said: “There’s been quite a spike in terms of diagnostic referral wait, it’s over 4%.

“I’ve had assurances from the trust they are expecting a recovery by August.

“Improvements are in place.”

A report from the CCG states one of the reasons for the failing was due to ‘staffing issues caused by staff sickness and maternity leave’.

However the trust has provided assurances the performance should be recovered by later in the year as staff have returned from sick leave and an initiative is in place to reduce the backlog.

The CCG also narrowly failed to achieve the standard for patients being seen within two weeks of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer.

It fell 0.4% short of the 93% target, which equates to 62 breaches during the month.

It is also below the national average of 94.2%.

A CCG report said it has taken action over the findings and will work with North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust staff to simplify the urgent referral information leaflet to emphasise the importance of attending.

It has also said primary care non-clinical training in early signs and symptoms and recruited in Cancer Alliance funded posts to support patient tracking is ongoing.

Ms Tempest, speaking at the meeting, said: “Action has been taken with the hospital trust to simplify referral information and emphasise to patients that they attend at the first appointment offered.”

However the CCG is currently achieving constitutional standards across the rest of its areas for the year to date.

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service