Socialist Worker

Operations delayed in order to balance books

Issue No. 2040

Last week Tony Blair claimed that reduced hospital waiting times would be part of his legacy.

Just days later it emerged that cash-strapped hospitals are delaying routine operations until after the end of the financial year in April in order to reduce budget deficits.

A recent survey for

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme questioned 60 NHS hospitals and found that primary care trusts (PCTs) had imposed “minimum waiting times” on 43 percent of them.

James Johnson, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) said it was a “crazy situation”.

He added, “The really ridiculous thing is that in the hospital you’re having to wait to go into, the beds are probably empty, the doctors are doing nothing and the nurses are doing nothing.”

Johnson’s claim was borne out by Wayne Jaffe, a reconstructive surgeon at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire who specialises in treating skin cancer.

Jaffe said that his team have been prohibited from operating in non-urgent cases unless the patient has been waiting for a minimum of 20 weeks.

The programme also uncovered the fact that for patients treated by the NHS in Kent, the waiting time to remove cancerous growths is at least three months – breaching the Royal College of Radiologists’ guidelines.

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