NHS Waiting Times At Crisis Levels

In Health and Wellness, Healthcare, Industry News by Raina Dhillon

In England, the NHS has a target of treating 92% of patients waiting for non-urgent, consultant-led treatments within 18 weeks. That is to say, in general, a patient should wait no more than 18 weeks to see a specialist having been referred by their GP.

But the NHS is currently failing to meet this target, according to the latest figures. In fact, it hasn’t done so since February 2016 (more than four years ago).

At present, the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment has reached almost three-quarters of a million, with 83.7% of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks, thus not meeting the required 92% standard.

A&E waiting times are no better

Unfortunately, it’s a similar story in Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments across England, with NHS figures showing that more than 100,000 patients waited more than four hours to be treated in hospitals – the highest number since records began. Of this number, 2,846 had to wait more than 12 hours from decision to admit to admission.

In January 2019 the number of A&E patients who had to wait more than four hours to receive treatment was 83,553, which means the total number just a year later has risen by more than 20%.

The British Medical Association said the figures showed the strain on the NHS was “relentless, deepening and showing no sign of recovery”.

Cancer patients experiencing unacceptable waits too

For the sixth consecutive year, the NHS has failed to meet its cancer waiting time targets too. One of these targets, known as the ‘62-day target’ states that patients should start cancer treatment within 62 days of being urgently referred by their GP. 

It is worth noting that for many years this target was met with little difficulty. However, this target hasn’t been met since January 2014. In fact, 2019 was the worst year since the target was introduced, with 64% of hospital trusts routinely missing it.

Delays were also witnessed in diagnosing suspected cancer patients. The number of patients who had to wait longer than two weeks for an initial appointment with a cancer specialist following an urgent referral from their GP increased by 30% – up 50,000 from 2018.

There is also good news for cancer patients though, with individuals who have formally started treatment rating their care as 8.8/10.

In Summary

Nearly 4 years have passed since NHS targets have consistently not been met. The National Health Service is clearly in crisis with official guidance confirming that 92% of patients should be seen within 18 weeks, but less than 84% actually do. The crisis looks set to worsen with the recent immigration laws being drawn up by the Home Secretary where NHS hospitals will be hit even further, with shortages of staff predicted.

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I have over 15 years client facing experience in the Employee Benefits industry having worked for Mercer HR Consulting and The Willis Group in London. Bringing my expertise to mid and large corporate clients, I joined Premier Choice Healthcare in December 2015, with the aim of advising and developing a varied Corporate client portfolio.