Dot Cotton fares better on NHS than Vera Duckworth

Article date: 27 May 2004

East Ender Dot Cotton can have a hip operation almost a monthsooner than the North West’s Vera Duckworth according to newfigures released today.

The figures also show that should The Archers’ Joe Grundyever need a knee operation, he’d be on the operating tablenearly 10 weeks before Footballers’ Wives character KylePascoe, who suffered a knee injury in the show.

These figures, the most recent waiting times on the NHS’smost common procedures, are drawn from Norwich UnionHealthcare’s latest Waiting List Guide which is part of itsonline Personal Health Manager.

The data shows that waiting times have improved, but a surveycarried out by Norwich Union Healthcare into people’sperceptions of waiting times reveals that despite this, the publicis still underestimating how long they’d have to wait for anop.

For example, people expect a five-month wait for a hipoperation. Norwich Union Healthcare’s figures show that thewait last year was eight and a half months – or nearly 11months if you include the initial waiting time to see a surgeon forassessment. It’s an improvement on the nearly 12 monthwaiting time in 2002.

But it’s bad news for the Government because people polledsaid they were only prepared to wait just over two and a halfmonths for the procedure. The government target is that no-oneshould wait longer than six months next year, reduced to a targetof three months some time after that.

Dr Doug Wright, clinical development manager at Norwich UnionHealthcare, said: "People are not really aware of how long theyshould expect to wait for an operation, and aren’t takingadvantage of the information that is available.

"This means they may be waiting several months for somethinglike a hip operation in their area, when it could actually be donemore quickly elsewhere."

The Waiting List Guidedata, supplied by independent medical research specialists DrFoster, shows that waiting times have on the whole improved forfive of the most common procedures year-on-year. But it’s toosoon to incorporate the effects of Government initiatives to reducewaiting times, such as diagnosis and treatment centres (DTC), intothe 2003 figures.

However the DTCs, being rolled out across the country, arecutting waiting times by enabling routine surgery to be carried outin a primary healthcare setting, rather than a hospital.

For example, the Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, which managesthe Ravenscourt Park DTC in West London – operational for thepast year – has seen a massive reduction in waiting times,from 204 days for a hip replacement (from seeing the consultant todate of procedure) in 2002 to just 30 in 2003.

Roger Taylor, researchdirector at Dr Foster, said: "The increased use of diagnosis andtreatment centres across the country is already beginning to havean incredible impact on NHS waiting times as demonstrated by theRavenscourt Park DTC. The full extent of the reduction will berevealed next year as we continue to monitor the effect they arehaving."

Norwich Union Healthcare’s Personal Health Manager( allows visitors to search waitinglist data either by procedure, specialty, specific NHS trusts ortrusts within selected postcodes and surrounding areas.

Dr Wright added: "We want to encourage people to do a bit moreresearch on the amount of time they could expect to wait for aprocedure. They should be aware that it’s possible to comparethe waiting times of NHS trusts in their area, go back to their GPand ask to be referred somewhere that has a shorter waitinglist.

"By giving customers data that’s easy to access andunderstand we’re enabling them to make this kind of choice,which they haven’t been doing up till now."

This is borne out by the results of another Norwich UnionHealthcare survey, in which almost nine in 10 people saythey’d never asked to go to a different consultant than theone to which they’d been referred.


Media contacts:
Jo Misson or CharlotteRuddlesdin, QBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424

Norwich Union Press Office contacts:
LornaWiltshire: 01904 723236 or 07788 471849
James Evans: 01904 452 791
Louise Soulsby: 01904 452 617
Robert Pell: 01904 452 659

Notes to editors:

Journalists wanting a limited free trial for Personal HealthManager, please visit and log in asa first time user with the access code: 831B4911. Once you havelogged in, this code will allow you to trial Personal HealthManager as a registered user from now until 30 June 2004. DO NOTPUBLISH THIS ACCESS CODE – IT IS FOR JOURNALIST USE ONLY.

About the research

Consumer research was by commissioned by Norwich Union, andundertaken by TNS, into how long people would expect, and beprepared to wait, for five common procedures. This was comparedagainst ‘actual wait’ data, collated by Dr Foster forNorwich Union’s Waiting List Guide, and which covers thefinancial year to 31 March 2003. The data focuses on the mostcommon procedures across 8 regions in England and Scotland.

The representative sample of 1,013 GB adults was interviewedduring 7-9 May 2004.

Cataract removal:Expected WaitPrepared to WaitAverage Inpatient WaitAverage Total Wait
Length of time3.8 months2.5 months~ 6.3 months~8.4 months
Mean average~114 days~ 75 days190 days253 days
Hip replacement:Expected WaitPrepared to WaitAverage Inpatient WaitAverage Total Wait
Length of time5 months3 months~ 4.3 months~10.9 months
Mean average~ 150 days~ 90 days255 days328 days
Knee replacement:Expected WaitPrepared to WaitAverage Inpatient WaitAverage Total Wait
Length of time4.9 months3 months~ 9.8 months~ 12.2 months
Mean average~ 147 days~ 90 days295 days368 days
Slipped disc:Expected WaitPrepared to WaitAverage Inpatient WaitAverage Total Wait
Length of time3.8 months2.1 months~ 2.5 months~ 5 months
Mean average~ 114 days~ 63 days74 days150 days
Groin hernia:Expected WaitPrepared to WaitAverage Inpatient WaitAverage Total Wait
Length of time3.5 months2.2 months~ 4.2 months~5.4 months
Mean average~ 105 days~ 66 days126 days162 days

About Norwich Union Healthcare

Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products that cover over 750,000lives. It is one of the largest providers of income protection andprivate medical insurance in the UK.

Norwich Union Healthcare is a member of the General InsuranceStandards Council, the Association of British Insurers and theFinancial Ombudsman Service.

Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre at

An ISDN facility is available for studio quality broadcast. Callthe press office on 08703 66 68 68

For all life, pensions and equity release media enquiries call08703 66 68 73

For all other media enquiries call 08703 66 68 68

Dr Foster is the leading independent authority onhealthcare quality in the UK. It publishes information which isaccessible to the general public and provides information analysisto the professional healthcare community.

An independent Ethics Committee with substantial powers toenforce editorial and research integrity oversees theorganisation.

Further information is available at direct from Tim Kelsey, Chief Executive, Dr Foster Limited, 17St. Helen’s Place, London EC3A 6DY.

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