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Variation in waiting times by diagnostic category: an observational study of 1,951 referrals to a neurology outpatient clinic

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number000133
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/05/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>BMJ Neurology Open
Issue number1
Number of pages8
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Objective:To investigate the frequency of diagnoses seen among new referrals to neurology outpatient services; to understand how these services are used through exploratory analysis of diagnostic tests and follow-up appointments; and to examine the waiting times between referral and appointment.
Methods:Routine data from new National Health Service appointments at a single consultant-delivered clinic between September 2016 and January 2019 were collected. These clinical data were then linked to hospital administrative data. The combined data were assigned diagnostic categories based on working diagnoses to allow further analysis using descriptive statistics.
Results:Five diagnostic categories accounted for 62% of all patients seen within the study period, the most common of which was headache disorders. Following a first appointment, 50% of all patients were offered at least one diagnostic test, and 35% were offered a follow-up appointment, with variation in both measures by diagnostic category. Waiting times from referral to appointment also varied by diagnostic category. 65% of patients with a seizure/epilepsy disorder were seen within the 18-week referral to treatment target, compared with 38% of patients with a movement disorder.
Conclusions:A small number of diagnostic categories account for a large proportion of new patients. This information could be used in policy decision-making to describe a minimum subset of categories for diagnostic coding. We found significant differences in waiting times by diagnostic category, as well as tests ordered, and follow-up offered; further investigation could address causes of variation.