OXFORDSHIRE’S hospital authority says it will deliberately miss a key waiting target so a backlog of patients can be cleared.

The target that demands a percentage of patients are seen within 18 weeks will be missed for January to April, bosses have agreed.

The “planned failure” by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUHT) is so those who have waited more than 18 weeks can be seen.

The latest figures from January reveal that 86.7 per cent of those who needed to be admitted to hospital were treated within 18 weeks – against a target of 90 per cent.

And 94.6 per cent of those who did not need to be admitted were seen within 18 weeks – against a target of 95 per cent.

Patients have a legal right under the NHS Constitution to start consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks from referral unless it is clinically appropriate to wait longer or as agreed by the patient.

But in a report to board members OUHT says it has agreed the failure of the target.

Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith said: “There is worrying evidence here of a number of backlogs building up.

“Each one of those represents individual patients not getting treatment as soon as they should have.”

The trust has warned there are “a significant number of services with growing elective backlogs” for planned appointments and treatments.

Extra operating theatre sessions and outpatient appointments are being held up to six days a week and “external providers” are also doing work, it said.

For admitted patients in January, the hardest hit was ophthalmology – eyes – with just 65.3 per cent of patients seen within 18 weeks.

Jacqueline Pearce-Gervis, chairwoman of county watchdog Patient Voice, said: “These announcements from the trust just increase patients’ anxieties.”

The move has been agreed by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG). A trust spokeswoman said: “We understand that any wait longer than necessary is of concern to our patients and we are doing our utmost to improve the waiting times. She said: “Due to the high volume of activity we have been unable to treat all elective patients within the 18 week wait time and have implemented a recovery plan to try and reduce the number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment, in agreement with our commissioners and the Trust Development Authority (TDA).”