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16.08.17

Patients in the south waiting significantly longer for vital treatment

Analysis of CCG data has found a huge disparity in care in different areas of England, as patients in the south were found to be waiting far longer to access vital medical treatments such as pacemakers, cataract surgery and hip and knee replacements.

The study, carried out by the Medical Technology Group (MTG), looked at data from 209 CCGs and found that nine of the 10 worst-performing commissioning bodies with respect to the 18-week ‘referral to treatment’ target were in the south.

One example with cardiology and cardiothoracic medicine showed that 100% of patients received treatment within 18 weeks in Durham, whilst in Medway this dropped to less than half.

MTG also found that waiting times are steadily increasing across all CCG, as three times more patients (380,000) wait longer than 18 weeks for treatment compared with 130,000 in November 2012.

“Delivering high-quality healthcare, no matter where you live, is one of the fundamental principles of the NHS,” said chair of the MTG, Barbara Harpham. “But budget cuts and rationing is having a huge impact on the service patients receive, and the outcome they can expect.

“This enormous north-south divide can’t simply be explained by the regional differences in populations.”

Harpham added that there is currently an “unprecedented strain on the health service” and patients are not being given equal access to the treatment and, most importantly, the technology they need.

“Quicker and better access to medical technology can save the NHS money in the long term, by avoiding complications and additional treatment, and by getting patients out of hospital and back to work and into the community,” she continued. “It’s time to reassess how medical technology is commissioned and to call these underperforming health services to account.”

A spokesperson for NHS England told NHE that the NHS RightCare programme is helping local areas identify which tratment differences are linked to local need and which aren't. 

"As the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has pointed out through its Choosing Wisely initiative, over-treatment is often as much of an issue as under-treatment.

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