Waits for surgery at highest in decade
THE number of patients waiting too long for routine operations is at its highest level in almost a decade, NHS figures reveal.
more than 400,000 patients have been waiting at least 18 weeks for procedures including hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery.
This is the highest number since September 2008 and prompted experts to warn that hospitals were going backwards.
under the NHS Constitution, its rulebook, patients have a right to have an operation or procedure within 18 weeks of being referred by their consultant.
But figures for August show that one in ten patients were waiting longer – only 89.4 per cent were treated within this 18-week target. A total of 409,342 people waited longer than 18 weeks in August 2017, the highest number since September 2008 when 470,983 waited this long.
Earlier this year, Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, warned that waiting times would go up to enable the NHS to focus its attention on cancer care and GP services.
Yesterday Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: ‘Our concern is now that waiting times are starting to go in the wrong direction.
‘With growing demand on the system and difficulties in moving patients from hospital to social or residential care, it’s easy to see how quickly things could deteriorate.
‘We cannot let all the good work we’ve done be so easily undone. The NHS is not well prepared going into this winter to prevent mass cancellations of operations.’
A&E waiting times are also on the rise. Data showed that, in September this year, 89.7 per cent of patients were seen within the target four hours compared with 90.6 per cent in the same month a year ago.
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘While it’s good to see that A&E four-hour performance has stabilised [in recent months] at 90.2 per cent – ending the annual declines seen in recent years – the whole of the NHS is mobilising for what could be a tough winter.’