[Introduction]: An operating theatre waiting list (OTWL) is a list that patients are enrolled in once they opt to pursue an elective procedure, assuming they cannot get this
procedure performed immediately (Chua, 2005). Operating
Theatre Waiting Lists are of great concern in society nowadays because of their societal and political priority, their link to the quality of individual patients’ lives, relation to the economic management of operating theatres and management of patient flow through the hospital, and distribution of scarce medical resources (Al-Hakim & Fitzgerald, 2003; Foote, North & Houston, 2004; NSW Health, 2002). They are used by politicians as measures of success or otherwise measures of government action on the health services.
It is generally accepted that waiting lists are unacceptably long and create a number of problems (Foote
et al., 2004). Long waiting times are a problem for patients, not only because of uncertainty but also because the state of the patient may deteriorate if he or she is
not treated early enough (Council of Europe, 2005).
Nothing is more important to patients than the length of time they have to wait for treatments. The impact of fast, effective treatment, diagnosis and treatment on a patient’s health and well-being is incalculable (Scottish Executive, 2001). Disruptions and delay affect the quality of patient care and may cause stress, anxiety, and discomfort for patients as well as cause costs to escalate as sessions overrun and much more (Buchanan & Wilson, 1996). Also, if a patient does not arrive in the operating theatre on time, the surgeon may be left idle or left to perform routine duties, which is expensive for the hospital and frustrating for the staff (Buchanan, 1998). There also have been reports
about the depressing effects on patients of cancelling
surgeries and on the high level of emotional involvement
before surgeries. Late cancellation of scheduled operations is also a major cause of inefficient use of operating-room time and a waste of resources; it is potentially stressful and costly to patients in terms of working days lost and disruption to daily life as well (Schofield et al., 2005).
Sometimes waiting lists are so long that patients have to be turned away. In September 2005, it was found that more than 30 patients were turned away daily from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (Sommerfeld, 2005). Long waiting lists also have been found to distort the clinical judgement of doctors, thereby causing suffering for some of the most seriously ill patients. It has been found that half of the consultants in England admitted deferring surgery in high priority cases to treat less urgent patients because of the pressure to cut waiting lists in those areas (Carvel, 2001). The consultants who admitted to treating patients in the wrong order said that this had a negative impact on the patients’ conditions.