Waits for surgery at high­est in decade

Daily Mail - - News - By Sophie Bor­land Health Ed­i­tor

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.’

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