Health cash for Oxfordshire could be cut because one hospital has failed to reduce its waiting lists, writes Victoria Owen.

The Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (NOC) at Headington, Oxford, has been accused of letting down other services in the county.

Like all hospitals, the NOC was expected to cut the number of patients it had on its waiting lists but failed to achieve its annual target by 251.

Oxfordshire Health Authority is angry that the bone specialist unit's poor performance has dragged down achievement levels for the whole county.

A report to OHA board members said: "The main issues are at the Nuffield the trust ended the year with 251 patients more on the waiting list than planned. This is a very disappointing result and is the main contributing factor to Oxfordshire's shortfall against target." Although staff at the hospital have been given 1m to resolve the problem, OHA directors have been advised that the county could lose out on new funding from the Government if the troubles continue throughout 2000-01.

OHA finance director Anna Anderson said: "Because part of the new money from the budget is linked to performance, there are a lot of pressures on the NOC to achieve the waiting list targets.

"Our offer of 1m was linked very specifically to achievement levels and the NOC will be under a lot of pressure not just from us but from the NHS Executive to achieve its targets."

Mrs Anderson said the NOC had failed to improve its waiting list targets, despite being banned from applying for funding for special projects. She said: "Staff have put in bids and they have made a lot of noise about not getting those bids, but we made it quite clear that we would not let them apply for special funding.

"The Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust has achieved its target, even though it has been under the strain of winter pressures and nursing shortages it's disappointing that the NOC couldn't do the same."

All hospitals are under pressure from the Government to reduce inpatient and outpatient waiting list figures, as well as cut down the number of patients waiting longer than 13 weeks for consultations.

NOC acting chief executive Jan Fowler said demand for orthopaedic treatment was high, increasing by eight per cent every year.

She said: "The impact of this however is that referral often leads to surgery. We are working in partnership with GPs to manage the demand within Oxfordshire and indeed have received praise from the National Patient's Access Team for our ambitious programme of initiatives in this area."

Witney's minor injuries unit has been saved from the axe at the 11th hour with 200,000 funding.

The accident centre, based at the town's hospital, was given a last minute reprieve by the Health Authority yesterday agreed to give it a slice of the 7.2m given to the county after the budget.