HOSPITAL bosses are looking into mistakes in how they record a key NHS waiting time.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust said it will change procedures if required, after a study of how it records waits for non-emergency cases.

A National Audit Office probe found 37 out of 96 patient records examined at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust had errors.

The report has raised questions over the accuracy of a key waiting time figure routinely published by the trust, which runs hospitals like Oxford’s John Radcliffe and the Churchill.

This states 90 per cent of patients who need to be admitted to hospital for consultant-led treatment must be seen within 18 weeks.

The figure is 95 per cent for those who do not need to be admitted.

Of errors found in the case files, 32 were about when the wait was recorded as starting, with a further nine over when it was recorded as stopping.

The 18 weeks “clock” can be paused only when the patient approves it for “social reasons” like holidays or work commitments.

The study found one error with this. A further 36 records were correct but 23 were “incomplete”.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said that while the criticisms were not aimed at clinical practice, the hospitals trust still needed to “put its house in order”.

He said: “It isn’t good enough that of 96 cases reviewed, only one in three had been counted correctly, and that Oxford had the second highest number of errors of the trusts examined.

“This is all important for public confidence in what we are being told about waiting times, and patients may well ask if these figures aren’t accurate, what else is not being recorded properly?”

A trust spokesman said: “The National Audit Office looked at a small number of non-emergency treatment cases at the OUH Trust and found inconsistencies or errors in the way some data had been recorded.

“Ensuring data is accurate is important to us in managing our services and allowing our patients to make informed choices about their care.

“We regret if mistakes have been made and there is no suggestion that any error was deliberate.

“We are looking into the points raised by the report and we will seek to review our recording procedures if that is required.”

From April to November, the trust achieved 91.1 per cent in hitting the 18-week target to see patients – above the target of 90 per cent.

It also achieved 96.6 per cent against the 95 per cent target for outpatients.

Patient Voice chairman Jacqueline Pearce-Gervis said patients must have accurate data about waiting times.

She said: “It is unsettling for patients and we hope they can sort it out.”

Head of the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse, said accurate information was vital as the NHS comes under increasing demand and has to make savings.

He said: “We have found errors in how trusts record waiting time, masking a good deal of variation between trusts in actual waiting times.

“The solution is not costly new processes, rather making sure existing processes work properly.”