The row over claims that NHS surgeons were manipulating waiting lists in order to comply with strict government guidelines continued today amid accusations that the clock in the waiting room of St James's Hospital, Leeds A and E department was running slow.
Mrs Joan Bighand, 77, of Sheep Street, Leeds said that according to the hospital clock she waited three hours and four minutes to have her bowels seen to, yet by her own watch the time was five hours and twelve minutes.
"I think it's disgusting," said Mrs Bighand. "It's a deliberate ploy to make us think waiting times are being shortened, when in actual fact we're waiting longer. The woman beside me said she'd been waiting twice as long to have half the treatment she usually has, and that can't be right, can it?"
Speaking through a surgical mask to conceal his identity, heart surgeon Mr Myocardial Infarction told of regular manipulation of the hospital's clock. "It's true," said Mr Infarction, "the clock on my wall is set to go backwards, so I'm seeing more folk that are actually coming to me, and the government think I'm treating people before they've fallen ill. Which is good as I get to have September off."
Nursing staff told a similar story. One nurse complained that her breast-pocket watch had been speeded up so much that all her patients were declared dead twice a day when she took their pulse.
A government spokesman remained resolute in pursuing NHS targets. "The figures speak for themselves," he said. "And figures can't be manipulated now can they?"
But the last word remains with Mrs Bighand. "Maybe my watch is sixty-four years old, but I know time when I see it, and hospital waiting time is different from real time."
Editorial note: It is with great sadness that we report Mrs Bighand died tonight prior to treatment being administered. But the good news is her bowels are scheduled to be done Tuesday week.