In England, hospitals are expected to see patients within 18 weeks – the standard waiting time provided by health chiefs.
It has been said that financial problems in the NHS are likely to cause a rise in waiting times in England over the next 12 months. Research carried out by the NHS Confederation has showed that many health chiefs expect the situation to get worse.
Mike Farrar, the head of the NHS Confederation, said the difficulties could even lead to the 18-week limit for elective operations being broken.
At present, the NHS is currently meeting the 18-week standard although the latest monthly statistics have demonstrated that a third of trusts were in breach of the limit for inpatients. This figure has doubled from just one year ago.
Out of those that took part, it is reported that 9 in 10 described the financial situation as very serious with nearly half of them saying it was the worst they had ever seen.
The results have also revealed that nationally, 90.5% of hospital in-patients have been seen within 18 weeks. However upon closer analysis, locally, a third of areas were in breach of the standards which is double the number from April 2010.
While most felt this would not harm patient safety or the quality of care over the next year, 53% said patient access could get worse.
It has been reported by the NHS Confederation that this is as a result of increased rationing of services, with restrictions being placed on everything from fertility treatment to hip and knee operations.
This warning comes just a month after David Cameron made a personal pledge to keep waiting times below 18 weeks as part of his drive to allay fears over the NHS reform programme.
Mr Farrar has advised that "Managers need more support if we are going to deal with the difficulties ahead," to prevent breaches of the 18 week waiting times and to ensure access to the services required.
Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said waiting times would continue to remain low and stable as promised. He added: "Ultimately, our modernisation plans will safeguard the future of the NHS, improve care for patients, drive up quality and support doctors and nurses in providing the best possible care for their patients."
Extended delays in receiving treatment, or diagnosing illnesses causes many problems and in some cases can exacerbate a patient’s condition. If you believe that you have suffered a delay in receiving treatment or a delay in the diagnosis of an injury or illness and would like to make a claim, we have a dedicated team of clinical negligence solicitors who would be happy to help you. You can call us for initial advice now on 0844 245 6602.