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NHS crisis: Number of patients waiting for surgery tops 4m

 

The number of people waiting for surgery on the NHS is at its highest level in a decade, startling figures show.

Official performance data has revealed nearly four million patients were waiting for routine operations in June. 

But bosses admitted that because six trusts didn’t submit data, the total would be over such a mark – only breached once since records began. 

Experts have slammed the ‘terrible’ NHS England statistics and suggested they are a ‘wake-up call’ for the need of more funding.

They have blamed the figures on a surge in demand on an over-stretched health service and an out of control recruitment crisis.

Data showed 3.83 million patients on the waiting list for non-urgent hospital care in June – an increase of 20,000 on May.

Of these, some 373,182 patients have had to wait longer than the 18-week mark – a time target introduced by the last Labour government in 2007.

NHS bosses are restricting access to IVF, with some considering limiting services to those aged 30 to 35

NHS bosses are restricting access to IVF, with some considering limiting services to those aged 30 to 35

NHS bosses are restricting access to IVF, with some considering limiting services to those aged 30 to 35

NHS is on the ‘back foot’

John Appleby, the director of research at the Nuffield trust, said: ‘These figures show that the NHS continues to be systematically unable to meet its main targets.

‘This puts the NHS on the back foot as we approach winter, with problems both at the “front door” of AE departments and at the “back door”, as hospitals struggle to send people home or onto further care.’

Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: ‘NHS England now say there may have been over 4 million patients waiting for treatment in June 2017. 

‘This is the equivalent of the city area population of Bristol, Liverpool, and Sheffield combined.

‘These statistics should act as wake-up call. This is the real life impact of an NHS under severe pressure. 

‘As our population increases and demand for the NHS grows, the waiting list will likely only get worse unless more action is taken.’ 

Experts argue it needs more money 

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘Month after month we are greeted with terrible new statistics telling us what we already know – our health service is in crisis and close to breaking point.

‘Waiting lists are sky-rocketing, bed-blocking is rampant and ambulance trusts are so far from hitting their targets Jeremy Hunt is shifting the goalposts.

AE TARGETS LAST HIT 2 YEARS AGO

The NHS in England last met its target for AE waiting times two years ago, new figures show.

In July this year, 90.3 per cent of patients spent four hours or less in AE, missing NHS England’s 95 per cent target, which was last achieved in July 2015.

There were also 500,498 emergency admissions in July 2017, which is only the third time since records began that emergency admissions have topped half a million, and the first time July emergency admissions have done so.

A spokesperson for NHS England said nine out of 10 patients were being admitted, treated, and transferred or discharged from AE within four hours, which was ‘up on the May 2017 performance’.

He said: ‘Reducing delays for patients awaiting discharge from hospital remains a key priority ahead of winter, and it is positive that NHS-related delays are lower this year than last.’

‘When will Theresa May and her bumbling health secretary learn if we want an NHS fit for purpose it has to be funded and staffed properly?

‘That means a real terms injection of money and an end to the public sector pay cap – it doesn’t mean selling off the NHS crown jewels for a short term cash boost.

‘This crisis has been made in 10 Downing Street and while the public suffer this summer, Theresa May goes off on holiday.’ 

What is the 18-week time target? 

The time target was designed to stop many having to endure long waits for common procedures, but in recent times has been subject of a clampdown.

In March, NHS bosses relaxed time targets for patients set to have cataract removal, hernia repair and other non-urgent operations.

But experts immediately hit back and slammed officials for ‘waving the white flag on the 18-week target’ by asking for just 92 per cent of patients to have treatment.

At the time they warned it could see the number of people waiting for surgery within 18 weeks breach the four million mark for the first time in 10 years. 

Previous breach of targets 

Such targets have only been broken once since the inception of the time target, in August 2007 when 4.18 million were waiting.

The month after dipped just under the mark, with 3.99 million being placed on the referral to treatment scheme. 

Waiting times have continued to soar since January this year, with slight increases recorded in each month following on.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Last month 1.4 million patients started consultant-led treatment, and more than nine out of 10 patients were waiting less than 18 weeks.

‘We’re working hard to cut long waits, and the number of patients waiting over a year for treatment has dropped by nearly 13,000 since March 2011 to being just over 1,500 now.

‘Factoring in estimates based on the latest data submitted for each missing trust suggests the total number of RTT patients waiting to start treatment at the end of June 2017 may have been just over four million patients.’

 

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