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Waiting times - the role of hospitals

Posted on 12 March 2002

The NHS Plan published in the summer of 2000 contained ambitious targets such as the aim to reduce the maximum outpatient waiting time to three months by 2005.

Now a group of experts at the University of York are to make a study of what hospitals are doing about the waiting time figures for elective surgery that they themselves are reporting - and what hospitals might do if funding was different.

Professor Peter Smith and his colleagues have received a £55,000 grant from the Department of Health to look at the way in which the market for elective surgery is likely to respond to different policy initiatives.

Professor Smith of the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York said: "Our previous research for the Department of Health has improved knowledge of how patient demand responds to lower waiting times, and has been influential in forming government policy. We found that actually there is not a massive rush to hospitals when people know that waiting times are shorter.

"However we know less about how the supply side - that is hospitals - will respond. We want to understand how hospitals react to the waiting time performance they report, in the form of increasing throughput and improving efficiency."

Professor Smith's research will focus on NHS hospitals, rather than on population behaviour. "Studies of population behaviour have focussed on the inpatient waiting time. Our proposed research will look at the entire waiting experience, including outpatient waiting.

"Inpatient and outpatient waiting time data are available for all hospitals from 1994. We will also be trying to estimate future levels of NHS waiting times under different funding scenarios."

Notes to editors:

  • Modelling waiting times for elective surgery: a hospital-based approach will be co-authored by Peter C. Smith, Stephen Martin and Nigel Rice, Centre for Health Economics, University of York
  • The University is well known for its work in health services research. In addition to the Centre for Health Economics, the University is home to the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, the York Health Economics Consortium, and the Department of Health Sciences

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153