Almost £2million has been spent by Borders health chiefs over the past three years on treatments outwith the region for 685 patients.
The Southern requested information on the cost to NHS Borders in the three financial years since 2011 on treatment of patients at external sites to ensure treatment-waiting times are met.
In 2011/12 this involved 96 patients costing £476,740, in 2012/13 there were 69 patients costing £345,367, and in 2013/14 there were 520 patients costing £1,157,712.
NHS Borders is required to offer treatment to patients within 12 weeks of agreement to treat under what is known as the Treatment Time Guarantee. This is where eligible patients receiving planned treatment on an in-patient or day-case basis will not wait longer than 12 weeks from the date treatment is agreed to the start of that treatment. NHS Borders said this could include hip or knee replacements, hernias or cataracts.
“When a health board does not have sufficient local capacity or there is an increase in demand that means treatment cannot be offered locally to them within this timescale, the health board will offer patients the opportunity to be treated in other hospitals under the 12-week Treatment Time Guarantee,” NHS Borders told us.
“Patients are given the choice to receive treatment locally, when clinically appropriate, but they may wait longer than 12 weeks.”
NHS Borders was also asked why the number being treated at external sites jumped from 69 in 2012/13 to 520 in the last financial year.
The health authority told us the number of patients offered planned treatment under the guarantee depends mainly on the demands on local services and whether or not those patients choose to receive treatment elsewhere.
“NHS Borders did experience a surge of referrals to a number of specialities early in the year, creating an increased demand for those specialities,” said a spokesperson.
“External factors such as workforce challenges and bed pressures during the winter months due to, for example norovirus, may also play a part in an increase.”