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13.10.17

Hospital waiting time targets not met for last 18 months

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has warned that the NHS is at risk of returning to its old waiting times without more support from the government.

Over the last 10 years the NHS has reduced waiting times for planned treatment, with almost 95% of patients waiting less than 18 weeks in 2012, compared to 57.2% in 2007, when over half a million patients waited more than a year for treatment.

However, the target of 92% has not been met for a year and a half, with over 400,000 patients waiting more than 18 weeks - the highest since September 2008.

To combat this, the RCS has said that NHS England must reprioritise the 18-week waiting time target.

At the end of March this year, NHS England announced its plans to remove the 18-week waiting time target for planned surgery from its list of priorities for the next 18 months.

According to NHS England’s data, published yesterday, 89.4% of patients had been waiting for less than 18 weeks at the end of August 2017.

But the waiting list continues to grow, with 4.1 million patients waiting for planned surgery at the end of August, with delayed transfers of care causing increased waiting times.

Earlier in the week the CQC warned that the NHS and adult social care were struggling to cope under the strain, with 4,000 fewer nursing home beds in March than there were two years ago.

Professor Derek Alderson, president of the RCS, praised the hard work of NHS staff to ensure that patients were examined as quickly as possible.

He explained the factors that contributed to the huge improvement that was seen leading up to November 2012: “This included increased funding for the NHS, a focus on targets and performance management, an NHS pricing system that ensured money followed the patient, and initiatives to reduce the waiting list size such as using the independent sector to increase capacity.

“Our concern is now that waiting times are starting to go in the wrong direction.”

He warned: “We cannot let all the good work we’ve achieved be so easily undone.”

He has called for more money in November’s Budget in order to meet the current demands of the NHS, and asked for a greater focus on protecting hospital beds and reducing delayed transfers of care, to enable patients to have the operations they require without lengthy waits.

Although delayed discharges have reduced over the last few months, NHS England’s data shows that there were 180,065 delayed days in August 2017 - an increase of 63.8% from to August 2010.

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