NHS England’s National Director of Operations and Information has publicly named and shamed a number of trusts that he claimed were failing to submit referral to treatment (RTT) reports.
Speaking on the first day of UK e-health Week 2018 on 15 May, Matthew Swindells said that despite the NHS investing “millions of pounds in technology”, there was still six trusts that were not disclosing their waiting lists to NHS England frequently enough.
This included Barts Health NHS Trust, which Swindells said had not sent an RTT report since August 2014.
Board papers from May show the trust has suffered from issues “relating to the accuracy of waiting list data”.
In a statement the trust said: “Barts Health NHS Trust has rectified long-standing issues with its systems used to report waiting list information, meaning we intend to publish waiting times for routine and non-urgent conditions from June to reflect waiting times from April 2018 onwards.”
The other trusts that were called out included:
- St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
- Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust
- East and North Herts NHS Trust
- Mid Essex Hospital Services NHS Trust
RTT reports include data which indicate how trusts are delivering on a patient’s right to receive treatment within 18 weeks of being referred to a consultant-led service.
Swindells said it was “not acceptable” that the named trusts were failing to submit such reports, going so far as to tell members of the audience belonging to these trusts to go back to the office and “get to work” after his presentation.
He said: “We walk around most hospitals and we’ve not known how many beds we have and how many patients are lying in them.”
“We need to at the very least get the data that we capture back out. If we can’t do the basics, me going cap-in-hand to the treasury for another £10bn to sort IT out just sounds like fool’s money.”
“We have to get this bloody stuff right”, he said, adding that NHS England’s failure to “deliver competent and basic IT” was preventing it from “running a sufficient NHS”.
A spokesperson for St George’s said the trust’s suspension of RTT reporting was ‘2016 due to significant data quality concerns’.
They added: “Our Elective Care Recovery Programme was set up shortly after to tackle our data quality challenges, and to ensure patients aren’t waiting longer than they should for treatment.
“We made clear at the outset that there will be no quick fix to the data quality challenges we face, but we have made significant progress – including the introduction of a new waiting list management system at St George’s Hospital (Tooting).
“Work continues to address our data quality challenges, and to return to national reporting in the future.”
When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust said: “In June 2017 we agreed with NHS Improvement to temporarily suspend the national reporting of RTT whilst we improved the quality of RTT data and validation, following the implementation of our new electronic health record.
“Since then, we have been working through our plan to resolve the data validation issues and have made significant progress. We are looking to restart reporting RTT data very soon.”
According to Swindells, NHS England’s ten-year vision for the future includes becoming a “data-led” organisation that supports new innovation and puts the “consumer at the forefront”.
Swindells previously caused a stir when he said the NHS’s digital best were ‘mediocre’ by international standards.