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Poor coding by health boards has masked true length of Scotland’s waiting lists

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 22 February 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1210
  1. Caroline White
  1. 1London

Many patients in Scotland may have waited considerably longer for hospital treatment than official figures suggest because of poor management and scrutiny of NHS waiting lists, according to an investigation by the country’s public spending watchdog, Audit Scotland.1

Limited data, inadequate controls, and poor audit trails make it impossible to pinpoint the exact numbers of patients affected and whether human error, inconsistent interpretation of national guidance, or deliberate manipulation of the figures are to blame, says the watchdog.

Audit Scotland analysed all health boards’ applications of waiting list codes in electronic patient records between April and December 2011, after it emerged that NHS Lothian had deliberately manipulated its data for patient waiting times during this period. …

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