BOLTON NHS Foundation Trust will fail to meet the Government’s 18-week waiting time targets for the second year — so that a backlog of patients can be cleared.

Despite constant monitoring, recovery plans and weekly meetings, the Trust is going to fail to achieve the target for the fourth quarter of this financial year.

Although the Trust had been meeting the overall 18-week target, it has been failing in certain specialties, including orthopaedic surgery, where there is a large backlog of patients.

Now the Trust, Bolton’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and health watchdog Monitor have agreed that in order to clear the backlog and be in a better position to achieve the targets next year, the Trust will fail its overall target.

Last April, Monitor severely criticised the Trust’s board of directors and placed it in “significant breach” for failing to meet the 18-week referral to treatment time target and for also failing to meet four-hour A&E waiting times. Since then, there has been some improvement, the Trust is meeting A&E targets and is achieving the overall 90 per cent 18-week target, despite failing in some specialties.

Su Long, designate chief officer, announced the Trust would fail to meet the target.

She said a decision had been made to “clear the backlog” of patients who were already over the 18-week period, which will mean it fails the target but will be better placed to meet their goal next year.

Ms Long added: “We are going to fail to meet the target. We don’t want the Foundation Trust to keep these long long waiters on the list, we want them to treat them now.

“It means they will fail for a time period, but it will put us in a position where there are no people on that waiting list.”

She said there were now 35 additional operation slots each month and an additional lower limb and hip surgeon had been appointed and would start work at the Trust in March.

She also revealed 23 patients had recently been booked for treatment in April, which would take them over their 18-week referral to treatment time deadline, and said they were being contacted to move their appointments to earlier dates.

Jon Scott, interim chief operating officer at the Trust, said: “Although the situation may look like failure, the reality is we are treating patients faster than we would have if we hit the target.

“That may sound odd but we are treating more patients in these three months than we would have and the majority of these have already waited for some time. Since the measurement of the target is based on the position after patients have been treated, it is the large number of patients we will be treating that are already over 18 weeks which makes the position look poor.”