The number of patients waiting for skin cancer surgery at Dunedin Hospital increased 64 per cent in the past year, while Southland Hospital halved its waiting list for the procedure, figures show.

Released under the Official Information Act, the figures show 167 patients were waiting for skin cancer surgery at Dunedin at the end of September, compared with 102 the same time last year.

In Southland, just 11 people were waiting, compared with 24 last year.

Because of cost pressures, the Southern District Health Board has stopped outsourcing services to Dunedin's Mercy Hospital.


Mercy Hospital chief executive Richard Whitney said when contacted that in 2011-12 the private hospital carried out 245 ear, nose, and throat procedures for the board, of which 108 were excision procedures (likely to be skin cancers).

In total, 410 ear, nose, and throat patients were waiting for surgery at Dunedin Hospital, a 13 per cent increase on last year. In Southland, that figure dropped 6 per cent.

Patients being monitored by a GP because they fell short of the criteria for surgery - known as "active review" - also leaped in Dunedin, from 90 last September, to 142.

In contrast, patients on active review in Southland reduced from 112 to 19.

In a formal response yesterday, the board said its planning and funding wing was considering whether to allocate more money to the GP sector to carry out skin excision surgery.

A capped number of skin lesion procedures are funded in the Otago-Southland GP sector each year, about 840 a year.

Earlier this year, Dunedin GP Dr Peter Ripley said he provided the surgery to private-paying patients, but did not sign up to the public scheme, because too few were funded.

Mornington Health Centre practice manager Barbara Bridger said yesterday when contacted the practice was doing about 20 funded procedures a month, on top of procedures for fee-paying patients.

"We could certainly do more surgeries if we had more funding," she said.