26 Jul 2016

Figures show 20,000 declined surgery

9:14 pm on 26 July 2016

More than 20,000 people were declined access to surgery and other treatments at the end of last year, new figures show.

The release of today's data follows an earlier release three months ago, which showed almost identical figures.

The figures released by the Ministry of Health are the latest from the National Patient Flow, which is designed to give a better picture of how public hospitals are dealing with those who need elective, or non-urgent, surgery.

They follow recent claims by doctors that DHBs struggling to meet the government's four-month target are hiding patients on "phantom" waiting lists. DHBs deny the claim.

According to the latest figures, between 1 October and 31 December 2015 there were 161,881 referrals for a first specialist assessment.

Of those 141,132 (87 percent) were accepted and 7762 (5 percent) were declined as they did not meet the threshold.

Another 12,987 (8 percent) had their requests held or declined for other reasons, including the need for further investigations, insufficient information from their GP, the service was no longer required or they had transferred to another DHB.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the data helped better understand the outcome of referrals to hospital specialists.

He said it also provided greater transparency for the public, whilst encouraging public hospitals to improve their performance.

"DHBs are already making improvements to their referral management systems, administration processes and communications with patients as a result of implementing the National Patient Flow project, " Dr Coleman said.

But critics say the figures only reflected a small proportion of the problem and did not include those who did not or could not get into the health system.