Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Waiting list statistics. I: Relation between admissions from waiting list and length of waiting list.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 295 doi: (Published 31 October 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;295:1105
  1. M J Goldacre,
  2. A Lee,
  3. B Don
  1. Unit of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Oxford, Headington.


    The relation between changes in inpatient workload, measured as increases or decreases in the number of inpatients admitted from the waiting list, and the overall length of the waiting list was studied. Overall trends in admissions from the waiting list, the influence of seasonal patterns, and the impact of industrial action on admissions were also studied. The hypothesis was that when admissions from the waiting list increased the length of the waiting list would decrease and vice versa. No such simple relation was found. In fact, if anything, as the number of admissions from the waiting list increased so did the length of the waiting list. This result could be due to inconsistencies in compiling waiting list data or to the use of waiting lists to improve organisational efficiency. It is also possible, and perhaps likely, that the ability to meet need in admitting patients to hospital influences patients and their doctors to translate previously unmet need into demand for hospital services.