NHS ordered to deal with long operation waiting lists

8 August 2014

NHS ordered to deal with long operation waiting lists

Patients who have had to deal with long waits for routine treatment under the NHS will be fast tracked over the summer under new orders by Ministers who want to see over 100,000 procedures carried out quickly with those who have waited longest for surgery to be prioritised.

The official target that Ministers have outlined is that those patients who have waited longer than 18 weeks (encompassing almost 200,000 procedures in total) for their procedures will have their treatment organised so that those who have waited longest will be placed at the top of the list for pending treatment.

Of the total of nearly 200,000 patients, 65,000 of them have waited for over 6 months for a routine operation with over 500 who have waited for more than a year for the same.

Will patient care be jeopardised?

Yet despite the fact that Ministers are keen to ‘fast track’ the treatment for those who have been waiting so long for their operations, they have admitted that the waiting time target performance would suffer as a result, describing it as a “managed breach”.

Mistreatment.com has dealt with a number of enquiries from the public which have shown how more complex surgery is required in cases where operations were not dealt with promptly, leading to further complications and surgical procedures that may not have been required if dealt with earlier.

They added that the patients who have waited the longest tend to be the most "complex and difficult" to treat.

The NHS is supposed to see 90% of patients who need non-emergency operations, such as hip and knee replacements, within 18 weeks yet the Department of Health admitted that this target would be missed for the next few months while the patients who have waited longest are fast tracked for treatment. They added that waiting times should normalise by the end of the year.

"No-one should have to wait for longer than a year"

With these extra procedures in mind hospitals have already been given an extra £250m earlier this year and the figures show that the money is being used to bring down the waiting list. Those waiting over 52 weeks for routine procedures came to an aggregate figure of 18,000 in May 2010, dropping to 574 in May of this year.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "No-one - except in exceptional circumstances - should have to wait for more than a year.

"We need targets that help patients get treatment when they need it - not targets followed blindly with no regard for the impact on individuals."

Is care being rationed?

However the persistent worry has been that NHS care is being ‘rationed’ with patient care potentially being jeopardised with patients still having to wait longer for operations. Mistreatment.com has dealt with a number of enquiries from the public which have shown how more complex surgery is required in cases where operations were not dealt with promptly, leading to further complications and surgical procedures that may not have been required if dealt with earlier. These enquiries have often given rise to medical negligence claims as a result.

Do the figures also deal with outpatient care properly as a result of the fast-tracked procedures?

Dr Mark Porter, of the British Medical Association, said: "It is right to prioritise patients who have had to wait the longest for treatment, but this announcement tries to wash over the fact that more patients will have to wait longer for an operation because the government, in effect, is having to ration care.

"This is yet more evidence that the NHS is buckling under extreme pressure and that patient care is being compromised."

Will outpatient care suffer?

Have you or a loved one been frustrated by long waiting lists? Has your patient care, surgery and treatment options been complicated as a result, possibly resulting in further treatment that may not have been initially required? If so, the specialist teams at Mistreatment.com are able to provide you with free advice about what your patient rights are and how you can go about making a possible complaint or medical negligence claim if the circumstances of the case merit further investigation.