Waiting times for outpatient appointments

To understand the quality of services that the NHS delivers, it is important to understand what patients think about their care and treatment. The Survey of Adult Outpatient Services asked users how long they had to wait for their outpatient appointment.

How long did outpatients say they had to wait for an appointment and how has this changed?

In 2011, 49% of those who attended the outpatient department for the first time waited one month or less for an appointment. 93% of patients waited less than three months and approximately six per cent waited for more than three months. In 2011, this question was only answered by respondents who were attending their first appointment at the outpatients department. The results, therefore, are not directly comparable with earlier years, where respondents were included irrespective of it being their first appointment or not.

The proportion of patients who reported waiting less than six weeks to get an outpatients appointment rose substantially from 57% in 2004 to 73% in 2009. In 2009, 17% of patients waited between six weeks and three months; 9% waited between three and 12 months; and 1% waited over a year, but less than 18 months. These proportions had all decreased since 2004.

Source: 
Care Quality Commission, Survey of Adult Outpatient Services
About this data

The Survey of Adult Outpatient Services in 2011 involved 163 acute and specialist NHS providers in England. It received responses from more than 72,000 patients, a response rate of 53%, compared to 59% in 2004 and 53% in 2009. People were eligible for the 2011 survey if they were aged 16 years or older and attended an outpatient department(s) during a one-month period (chosen by the provider) in either April or May 2011. This included any outpatient clinics run with the emergency department (A&E/casualty) such as fracture clinics. For more information of surveys in other years, please see NHS Surveys: Previous outpatient department surveys.

The results (percentages) from each provider are given equal weight in calculating the results in England. Some providers have a higher response rate than others and would, therefore, have a greater influence over the England average. To correct this, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) applies a ‘weight’ to the data. As a result of applying this weight, the responses from each provider have an equal influence over the England average, regardless of differences in response rates between providers.

Results (percentages) presented from CQC's national reports have been rounded up or down to whole numbers. If you add two response categories together (such as ‘very good’ and ’good’) you may get a figure which is slightly different to the figures reported elsewhere, because these used results to at least two decimal places. Likewise, columns may not add up to exactly 100%, due to the rounding up/down.

Results (mean scores) for individual providers were calculated by converting each respondent’s answer to a question into a score (from 0 to 10), then averaging these to arrive at a single score for the provider, for each question. The higher the score, the better a provider is performing.

In 2011, these questions were only answered by respondents who were attending a first appointment at the outpatient department. Responses are not included from all other respondents. Because of this, the questions will not be comparable with 2004 or 2009.

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