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NHS waiting times rise amid cuts, King's Fund


NHS waiting times are rising as financial strain on the healthcare system begins to show, according to a report published today.

New figures from health charity The King’s Fund reveal that NHS waiting times are at their highest level for three years with nearly 15% of hospital inpatients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment in February 2011.

The report highlights a steady increase in waiting times for hospital treatment since the government relaxed the 18-week target in June 2010, the charity said.

Professor John Appleby, chief economist at The King’s Fund, said: “With hospital waiting times rising, the NHS faces a considerable challenge in maintaining performance as the financial squeeze begins to bite.”

He warned that hospitals no longer have a target for waiting times in place but instead “a vague commitment”.

“The trouble is it’s hard to see what the mechanisms are to keep that target low. I think the issue is how far they will continue to rise and at what point does the public start to notice,” he added.

The figures show waiting times in accident and emergency departments are also steadily climbing with the proportion of patients waiting more than four hours increasing.

Although this percentage tends to be larger in the third quarter of each year, the latest peak is the highest since 2004/5.

The King’s Fund said a panel of 26 NHS finance directors were questioned at a time of tightening budgets within the NHS to find £20 billion in productivity improvements by 2015.

Researchers also analysed data published by the Department of Health.



Readers' comments (3)

  • 'The trouble is it’s hard to see what the mechanisms are to keep that target low.'

    No it isn't. The trusts won't hire enough staff, so the staff there can't see to the amount of patients coming in, hence waiting times go up. Hire more staff, waiting times go down.

    'The King’s Fund said a panel of 26 NHS finance directors were questioned'

    Oh for crying out loud!!!!!

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  • Oh what a surprise!! NOT!!
    For goodness sake, what did they expect? We are going back to the bad old days of people having to wait months for outpatient appointments, treatment and surgery if they need it.

    I agree with Mike's, "Oh for crying out loud".

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  • I believe the problem is not so bad here in Scotland but due to the financial restraints we may have to cut back the amount of operations etc to live within what we are allocated and so will wait to see what happens this year. I sympathise with my English colleagues as, according to the comments I read on this forum, it seems to be quite grim down there.

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