The number of urology patients in the Highlands waiting over 12 weeks for their first appointment has been cut by hundreds.
Outpatient appointments had been steadily rising in numbers for some time with a prediction that, if this continued, around 1,300 would be waiting over three months as of September.
As well as holding additional clinics, a number of initiatives were implemented in the Highlands that has resulted in just 35 patients now waiting over 12 weeks.
And there are plans to add another two nurse practitioners to the urology team to further reduce waiting times.
Ron Coggins, clinical director for the surgery and anaesthetics division at Raigmore Hospital, said: “Our waiting list had been steadily increasing and we needed to understand why that was happening and what we could do to improve the position for our patients who had been referred to service.
“An in-depth look at the current waiting list has allowed us to tidy it up by removing duplicate entries, review patients who had moved out of area as well as a clinical review of patients who had declined or not responded to two or more offers.
“The validation work we have done here can now be replicated across other waiting lists in Highland and indeed Scotland ensuring that only patients who need appointments are on the list.”
Mr Coggins explained that, alongside this piece of work, they also took the opportunity to re-triage patients back to GP with advice and to nurse specialists, meaning a number were now no longer waiting lengthy periods to see a clinician in hospital.
He said: “By clinically reviewing the patients referred we have been able to improve our communication with GPs and therefore improve the quality of future referrals which has allowed more patients to be managed in a primary care setting and not have to wait for a hospital appointment.
“The expected length of wait for routine urgency patients is now shared with GPs to allow them to share with patients.
“We’ve also reduced our ‘did not attend’ rate by using Patient Focussed Booking when arranging additional clinics ensuring that appointments are agreed with patients in advance which also reduces the need to cancel or rearrange.”
Andrew Ward, divisional general manager for the surgical division at Raigmore Hospital, added: “Plans are in place to recruit a further two nurse practitioners to the urology team to allow more patients to be seen, therefore reducing the chance of the number waiting creeping up again.”
Mr Ward said: “This is a huge amount of work we have undertaken which patients are seeing the benefit of. We want to be able to maintain this and further improve the experience for our patients. Work will continue in urology and this will soon be extended to other specialities in Highland so that everyone will benefit.”