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Patients put at risk by NHS waiting times

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Issue 2659
A strike threat by domestic workers at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow pushed bosses to drop outsourcing plans. We need many more such struggles—and national action
A strike threat by domestic workers at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow pushed bosses to drop outsourcing plans. We need many more such struggles—and national action (Pic: @UNISONEastern/Twitter)

While the Tories slug it out to decide who will be their next leader, new figures expose the destruction caused to the NHS by government policies.

There are now 4.3 million people waiting for hospital treatment and 140,000 people were added to the list between January and April this year.

A year ago there were 4 million people on the list, and two years earlier it was 3.78 million.

“We must not forget that behind these numbers are patients waiting in pain and discomfort,” said Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons.

He added those patients are “possibly unable to work or look after themselves, all the while worried about when they might receive the treatment they need”.

“Living this way for months on end can have a huge impact on quality of life and further deterioration in their health.”

Typical procedures that people have to wait for are joint replacements and cataract surgery.

In addition the proportion of patients with suspected cancer who are seen within two weeks of urgent referral is at the lowest level since records began.

In April, just 89.9 percent were seen within a fortnight of an urgent GP referral, the lowest figure for a decade.


The proportion of cancer patients receiving their first treatment within the target 62 days of an urgent GP referral is just 77 percent. One in four patients have had no treatment two months or more after they were diagnosed with suspected cancer.

The data comes after MPs published a damning report earlier this week warning that patients are being put at risk due to long NHS waits.

Other data shows ambulance trusts struggling to hit targets, in particular the aim to treat or discharge patients within four hours of arriving at an Accident & Emergency department.

BMA consultants’ committee chair Dr Rob Harwood said, “This latest set of NHS figures show a health service descending into an ever-deepening crisis and closer to a system unfit for purpose.

“Despite the BMA warning over a month ago of the crisis in cancer care, it is extremely concerning that we are continuing to see a rising trend in the number of patients forced to wait over two weeks to see a cancer specialist after their GP referral, further adding to their distress.”

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at the King’s Fund think tank, said: “These figures show NHS performance is heading in the wrong direction.

“Despite the best efforts of NHS staff, it is hard to see how the NHS can get back to delivering its performance standards while it remains in the grip of a workforce crisis.

“If the government is serious about giving patients timely access to care, it must deliver on its promises to address staffing shortages and provide investment and reform for social care and preventative services.”

Every day the Tories remain in office the NHS crisis worsens. Action is needed now against the cuts, closures and privatisation polices that are causing such disasters.

Waiting for a general election is too little and too late.

The trade union leaders and Jeremy Corbyn should put themselves at the head of real resistance.

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