- Chris Morris
- Apr 11, 2017
- 759 Views
New analysis of official NHS figures indicate that the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for surgery could double over the next three years.
NHS Partners Network has conducted the analysis, and concluded that over 800,000 patients annually may be forced to wait for more than 18 weeks by 2020.
The organisation also suggested that the total number of people awaiting operations will reach almost five million by the end of the decade; an increase of nearly two million over the last five years.
In compiling the figures, NHS Partners Network also pointed out that many patients are unaware of a legal right to choose where NHS treatment takes place.
This can include choosing locations with a shorter waiting list, including private hospitals.
And David Hare, chief executive of the NHS Partners Network, urged patients to use their legal right to choose where to have treatment.
“With the NHS’ move to relax its commitment to treating NHS patients within 18 weeks, it is crucial patients are able to exercise their right to choose which provider they are treated by to ensure they can access the quickest available treatment,” he said.
The head of the NHS has already admitted that waiting times for routine operations will grow longer in the foreseeable future, with hospitals instead told to prioritise emergency and cancer care.
Responding to this statement, senior doctors indicated that the NHS has already effectively jettisoned its intention of conducting 92% of non-urgent operations within 18 weeks of referral.
The aforementioned Hare noted that independent sector providers can treat NHS patients six days quicker than health service providers on average, while still delivering the same value for money to the taxpayer.
“Unless action is taken, patients will face unacceptably long waits for treatment which not only leaves them in pain for longer than required, but could also lead to medical complications. We therefore urge the Government to take urgent action to ensure patients and the public are given sufficient information and are empowered to exercise their right to choose so they can access care as quickly as possible,” Hare commented.
Over 3.5 million people are already awaiting non-urgent operations, which is an increase of 50% since 2008.
While health officials acknowledge that there are serious difficulties in this area, they also believe that the growing population means such figures are inevitable.
Simon Stevens has already stated that NHS policy must alter in order to address serious symptoms above relatively trivial matters.
Commenting on the data, an NHS England spokesman defended the performance of the health service.
“Since the early 2000s we’ve more than doubled the number of NHS hip and knee operations, and expect yet further growth in non urgent surgery over the next few years. Most NHS operations are now done in well under 12 weeks, and patients will continue to be able to choose where their operation takes place.”