Ministers have pledged £250m to clear a waiting list of 3.1 million people on Britain’s socialised National Health Service (NHS), the highest level for six years, according to the Daily Mail. The money will be spent on 100,000 operations over the next few months to help ease pressure.
The operations will be focused on those who have waited the longest including around 600 patients have waited more than a year for treatment. Health officials have admitted that the backlog will cause a temporary rise in the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment. This will lead to a breach of the target to treat 90 percent of patients within this timescale.
The Department for Health said that the extra pressure on the system was caused by an ageing population. This has meant an extra 100,000 people a month are being referred for treatment compared to 2010, with hospitals performing an extra 2,000 operations a day.
In May 2010, shortly before the General Election 20,662 patients had waited for 18 weeks or more. By May 2014, this total had soared to 29,847. But Labour will say that the new 12-month treatment pledge is merely a way to deflect attention from a failure to tackle growing waiting lists in the health service over the past four years.
In some NHS Trusts the situation is so bad that patients have been urged to pay privately if they want to be treated more quickly. In Southampton, the clinical commissioning group has imposed restrictions on cataract operations, things were not much better at Southampton University Hospitals. They have allowed people who have been denied NHS treatment to pay for the service that would otherwise be provided free. Its website offers ‘a new option, between the traditional private sector and the NHS’.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s response has been to target all those waiting over a year. In May 2014, just 575 people were in this position – down from 18,458 four years previously. Once a patient waits over 12 months they have their case reviewed to determine whether it should be fast tracked.
On a visit to Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, the Health Secretary will say: “No one – except in exceptional circumstances – should have to wait more than a year.
“[We need] targets that help patients get treatment when they need it – not targets followed blindly with no regard for the impact on individuals.
“An NHS confident that – in the end – it will continue to meet the huge challenges ahead if it leaves room, amongst many loud, competing pressures, for the quietest but most important voice of all: that of the patient.”
Liz Kendall, a Labour health spokeswoman, said: “David Cameron promised to protect patient care, but instead he has lost control of waiting times.The number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for their treatment has increased by 50 per cent since 2010, and the cancer waiting time target has been missed for the first time ever.
“The Tories have mismanaged the NHS – and it’s patients who are paying the price.”
Whilst the British refer to the NHS as “the envy of the world” in reality treatment can be very slow, leading to preventable deaths. The hospitals are often out of date and Trade Union dominated. One group – Nurses for Reform – described the NHS as a “dystopian, Soviet-style calamity”.
It is such a large organisation that it is the world’s third largest employer after the Chinese Army and the Indian Railways. Many Conservatives argue that it is too big to work, and that much more private sector involvement is needed.