More than 200,000 people have been waiting at least six months for routine surgery for the first time in a decade, according to official figures for May.
More than 3,000 patients have been waiting more than a year for procedures such as hip replacements, six times as many as five years ago. Accident and emergency units, which had their busiest month ever in May, had their second busiest in June, with more than two million visits as hospitals continued to miss a series of targets. The latest waiting list figures show 211,324 still waiting after 26 weeks in May, up 48 per cent on the same month last year.
Susan Hill, senior vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Six months will be too long to be waiting for treatment for some patients. It is extremely stressful for patients and their families to have to wait this long. These patients will be in severe pain and discomfort, possibly unable to work or carry out daily tasks.”
An estimated 4.3 million people are now waiting for NHS treatment.
Ms Hill said that hospitals were struggling to deal with a backlog from the winter, when tens of thousands of operations were cancelled to free up beds. “Hospitals must get their waiting lists under control before the next winter creeps up and we find ourselves in an even worse position,” she said.
Two letters on 16th July in the Times:
Sir, Litigation ensures medical accountability. Experience shows that the NHS cannot be trusted to investigate itself. Too often patients are fobbed off when things go wrong and so turn to lawyers to seek the truth. The legal claims process provides independent, robust clinical scrutiny according to professional norms and is free at the point of need. Claimant lawyers are only paid on successful claims. By contrast, NHS lawyers are paid for unsuccessful defences. It rewards “delay, deny, defend” conduct so that unsustainable defences are maintained until late, eventual settlement, with increased costs all round. The NHS pays damages in 80 per cent of cases litigated. The NHS can cut its legal bill by paying its own lawyers by result and adopting an open, honest culture with negligence claims.
Dr Anthony Barton
Medical Negligence Team, London N1
ROLE OF NURSES
Sir, The president of the Royal College of Physicians believes that work previously done by doctors should be performed by non-medical practitioners (“Bigger role for nurses to cover shortage of doctors”, News, July 13). The academic requirements to enter medicine are high and the training long and arduous. Medicine is becoming more challenging and complex as our patients age. With fewer qualifications for nurses, there is real potential for inferior care.
Dr Alan Leaman