More patients treated, but still more have to wait

28 Jun 01
The NHS is showing increasing signs of being unable to cope with the growing demand for health care.

29 June 2001

According to the NHS Quarterly Review, published by the Department of Health this week, the health service treated more patients in 2000/01 than the previous year. The number of patients admitted for planned surgery increased by 1.8%, while emergency hospital admissions rose by 1.1%.

But waiting lists rose by 16,800 (1.7%) between the end of March and the end of April.

The time taken to treat patients in accident and emergency departments is also getting longer. Between January and March this year, 72% of patients were admitted within two hours, compared with 76% in the same period last year. Patients waiting four hours rose from 9% to 13%.

There was a 13% increase in the number of patients who were not admitted within a month of the cancellation of their operation.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn has promised that, by the end of 2002, patients whose operations are cancelled at short notice for non-medical reasons will wait no more than a further 28 days. This will be seen as a key measure of NHS performance now that the government has abandoned waiting lists for waiting times.

After 2002, hospitals that fail to offer a new date will be forced to pay for the operation where the patient chooses, including private hospitals.

One manager, who asked not to be named, said: 'Cancelled operations are a concern but it's another thing that has to be put on the back-burner while we grapple with our priorities. We have until the end of next year to get it right and we will deal with it when the time comes.'


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