THE borough’s health commissioners have been given additional support by NHS chiefs to clear the "huge" backlog of patients waiting for surgery at Barnet and Chase Farm hospitals.
The news comes as the Hampstead-based Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust continues its efforts to reduce the number of patients on the elective surgery waiting list at the hospitals in Wellhouse Lane, High Barnet, and The Ridgeway, Enfield, which the it took over in July.
Last year it was revealed that the now defunct Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust had stopped reporting the numbers of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment to NHS England because of a major data quality problem.
A Barnet Clinical Commissioning Group report in April estimated that at least 180 patients had been waiting for more than a year for surgery, while 2,200 patients had waited longer than 18 weeks.
It also said that a major data quality recovery exercise had begun, but that could take until late next year before the backlog is cleared.
This week the Health Service Journal reported that Barnet CCG has been given additional support, underpinned by "legal directions", by NHS England, to assist the Royal Free in tackling the problem.
NHS standards dictate that 90 per cent of admitted and 95 per cent of non-admitted patients should start consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks.
Commenting on the intervention, Debbie Frost, chairwoman of Barnet CCG, said: "NHS England wanted to find a way to work with the CCG to ensure that there is a robust process in both the short and long-term to get referral-to-treatment times back on track.
"The directions are a way of ensuring additional targeted support on managing the huge referral-to-treatment times issue only. We are working more closely with NHS England to address the underlying problems and ensure that Barnet and Chase Farm have sustainable plans in place to meet demands for services in the future."
The Royal Free said it could still take "some months" to establish which patients have been waiting for longer than 18 weeks.
A spokeswoman added: "Reducing patient waiting times is a priority and there are a number of measures in place, including arranging extra clinics and working with other trusts to address this issue.
"We are currently in the process of checking which patients have been waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment. This is a complex process and will take some months to complete."