Hospitals 'Cooking Books'

Article excerpt

MORE than half of NHS hospitals investigated by independent inspectors were found to be deliberately 'cooking the books' or making mistakes in counting the number of patients on waiting lists.

An Audit Commission report reveals 'significant inaccuracies' in figures as Health Service managers around the country struggle to meet Government targets.

The findings will throw fresh doubt on claims waiting lists are falling and the length of time patients spend waiting is also going down.

Spot checks were carried out at 41 trusts u some of which had been exposed by 'whistleblowers'. Reporting errors were found at 19 and deliberate manipulation of figures at three.

Some patients were dropped from waiting lists altogether while others were transferred to 'non-active' lists which, in extreme cases, included hundreds of patients.

At one trust 2,000 patients were 'lost' over a period of months so the hospital appeared to be making good headway towards targets.

Tactics used include offering surgery to patients at short notice on days they are known to be on holiday and, when it is turned down, starting the waiting time from zero. …