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Waiting time targets 'have not increased inequalities'

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A recent drop in the length of NHS waiting times was experienced evenly throughout the country’s socio-economic landscape, according to a study.

In the last 10 years, the government has introduced a number of healthcare reforms, including increasing the supply of doctors, raising funding levels for the health service, applying rigid waiting time targets, and introducing patient choice and provider competition through market based reforms.

But there have been concerns the effects of these moves would be an uneven distribution of waiting time reductions across Britain’s socio-economic groups.

However, the study - looking at patients undergoing three key elective procedures in England between 1997 and 2007: hip replacement, knee replacement and cataract repair - found the recent NHS reforms have not had a harmful impact on equity with respect to waiting times for elective surgery in England.

Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science wrote on bmj.com: “While these findings cannot prove what policy mechanisms led to reductions in waiting times and improvements in equity, they do confirm that these reforms did not lead to the inequitable distribution of waiting times across socio-economic groups that many had predicted.”

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