Health commissioners will not fine the trust that runs Watford General Hospital – after “good progress” was made to bring waiting lists down.

According to NHS targets, 92 per cent of patients should receive treatment within 18 weeks – and no-one should wait longer than 52 weeks.

But West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust has been failing to meet these targets.

And in November it emerged Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group had plans to fine West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust around £500,000 a month.

However now the CCG say the trust has made “good progress”.  And they have confirmed the financial sanctions will not be levied against the trust.

A CCG spokesman said: “We have agreed with West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust that they will not be fined for not meeting their waiting time targets during the 2018-19 period."

When it emerged the CCG intended to fine the trust, figures showed 92 patients had been waiting for more than 52 weeks for treatment. At one point there were 124.

Now there are reported to be just four patients who have been waiting for more than a year – and all of these delays are said to be as a result of  patient choice, with treatment dates already scheduled.

Although just 85.1 per cent of patients had been treated within the 18-week target in January, the CCG says this is an improvement on the previous month (December).

And following the focus on 52-week waits, they will now concentrate on those waiting more than 18 weeks

The CCG spokesman said: “Good progress has been made during the past year by the teams at West Herts working with Herts Valleys and currently no patients are waiting more than 52 weeks for treatment – other than a very small number who were unable to accept dates that would have enabled them to be treated within that time-frame.

“Our focus will be to continue to work with the hospital trust to further reduce the amount of people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment.”

Confirming the CCG’s decision not to impose fines, the hospital trust’s director of performance Jane Shentall said: “We would like to apologise to our patients who experienced excessive waits for planned inpatient care.

“And we are pleased to have worked collaboratively with our healthcare partner Herts Valleys CCG, which did not fine us for missing our waiting times targets.”

According to Mrs Shentall the delays in treatment were caused by a number of factors, including an “extensive” period of winter pressure during 2017/18 and increased demand for our services.

And as part of a drive to cut waiting times she says the trust has run additional theatre sessions at weekends, “maximised opportunities” to admit patients for elective care at Watford General Hospital and increased the number of procedures at St Albans City Hospital.

She says the trust also worked with the CCG to access treatment for patients from a number of different sources, including local private providers for less complex cases.

And she says they intend to continue to reduce current waiting times across the trust.

“We’re now building on the successes of our work to further reduce wait times over the course of this year,” she said.

As part of a continuing effort to drive down waiting times a report to the CCG governing body says ‘outsourcing’ plans will continue this year.

It says the trust has ring-fenced elective capacity at the Watford site, including seven ring-fenced orthopaedic beds.

And the CCG will also look to identify capacity at other providers within 50 miles who could take paediatric, allergy or neurology patients from west Hertfordshire.