Availability Status Codes (Abuse)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Health and Well-being – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7th June 2007.

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Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour 2:15 pm, 7th June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will list any proven cases of abuse of the system of availability status codes in the last two years. (S3O-132)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

The current system of availability status codes is not implemented consistently throughout Scotland and has the potential for unfairness and misuse. That is why I have made it clear that I expect health boards to accelerate abolition of the codes and implement a more transparent and fairer system as quickly as possible. I will continue to press for progress on the issue, as it is important to many patients.

Photo of James Kelly James Kelly Labour

I note that the cabinet secretary has not been able to give any specific examples. Does she agree that her failure to be specific about instances of abuse of availability status codes demonstrates an attempt to detract from the record of the previous Executive on reducing waiting times?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I know that the member is new to the chamber but, with the greatest respect to him, I think that he misunderstands availability status codes—or hidden waiting lists, as I prefer to call them. It is not just a question of whether the system is being abused, although it is being applied inconsistently; the system itself, even if properly applied, is fundamentally unfair. Someone who cannot attend an appointment—even for a very good reason, such as a family funeral—is stripped for ever of their waiting time guarantee and, in many cases, has to wait an exceptionally long time for treatment. They are then discounted completely in determining whether waiting times targets are met. I make absolutely no apology for doing what the previous Administration did not do—delivering a system that is more open and honest and that puts patients first.