Today the government has announced significant slashes to patient waiting times for operations. They claim that almost 50,000 fewer patients are waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment compared with figures from 2010.
They also claim that 59 hospitals now have no patients waiting longer than a year, 106 hospitals have less than 10 patients waiting longer than a year, and 43,322 fewer patients were waiting longer than 6 months at the end of March 2012 compared to May 2010.
Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley has said:
However, a study published last month by the Patients Association, a national voluntary organisation independent of government and health service organisations, revealed the exact opposite.
Information supplied to the association by 93 of the UK’s 170 acute hospital trusts found that waiting lists for some of the most common operations had increased during the same time period that the Department of Health claims they decreased. The average wait for a knee replacement rose from 88.9 days to 99.2 days for example. The wait for the removal of gallstones has increased by 7.4 days, and for a hernia has increased by 7.9 days.
According to this research not only have waiting times increased, but the number of operations being performed has decreased. At the 93 trusts surveyed 18,268 fewer operations were performed in 2011 than 2010.
When questioned by the Patients Association regarding their findings the Department of Health said that their data showed that waiting times were low and stable and more patients were being treated, however, they also said that their information was based on “partial” data and did not reflect waiting times across the whole country.
The Department of Health has come under extensive, and impassioned criticism in recent months over the now-passed controversial Heath Bill. It is feared that proposed cuts, and devolution of authority within the NHS will impact on the quality and efficiency of patient care.