Patients on Britain’s National Health Service are facing increasing delays while waiting for common operations, despite a government pledge to keep waiting list times low.
The Guardian reports that patients are now waiting an average of 15 days longer now than in 2010 to have their tonsils removed, 14 days longer for adenoid removal and 10 more days for a hernia procedure.
These delays come despite the Department of Health giving the NHS an extra £400m to keep down waiting list times.
Information supplied by England’s acute hospital trusts also shows that waiting times vary greatly across the country, with delays of up to 215 days in some places – far more than the maximum 18 weeks (126 days) they are supposed to wait under the NHS constitution.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, condemned the delays. She said they meant that patients were suffering in discomfort or pain and may even be immobile while they wait. Some have become so frustrated that they are turning to private healthcare providers, who treat them much more quickly.
Murphy, who is a former NHS nurse, added: “While we appreciate the financial squeeze in the NHS, it cannot be at the cost of patient care and should not mean that patients are suffering, as these figures suggest that they are. It’s unfair and unjust for patients to have to suffer the consequences of unnecessary delays after they have been referred.”
Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The whole system is under more pressure than ever, and what we are seeing in this report is that this can have a major impact on elective care, as measured through performance targets like 18 weeks.”
A spokesman for the Department for Health said: “With an ageing population pressure on the NHS is inevitably increasing so we are overseeing a one-off programme to tackle the sharp rise in demand for elective surgery.”