Increased NHS waiting times may cost lives
- AuthorJudith Thomas-Whittingham
Dr Mark Potter, Chairman of the British Medical Association's Consultants Committee, has raised concerns about increased NHS waiting lists for tests and treatments. His comments will no doubt add pressure to David Cameron who has stressed that patients should not have to endure long waits.
An analysis by the Guardian reveals that the number of patients waiting more than six weeks for diagnostic test such as MRI scans has quadrupled in the last year, an extra 2,400 people a month are not being treated within 18 weeks, and 200,000 patients waited longer than four hours in A&E this year compared with the same period in 2010. The Guardian’s analysis of NHS data also indicates that five of six main waiting time targets are increasingly being breached.
Dr Potter comments that, "There's definitely a potential for patient harm from these growing waiting time problems. Patients will be waiting with anxiety and pain longer than they should be. That's inhumane." In addition he comments that delays could result in treatment options being limited. In particular, he explains that delays in identifying certain conditions may result in the disease progressing beyond the point where surgery or drugs could save individuals.
Professor Tim Evans, Vice-President of the Royal College of Physicians, echoes the concerns raised by Dr Potter. In relation to cancer, Professor Evans comments that, "The fact that more patients are waiting longer, even small numbers, is a matter of great concern to clinicians. If you need treatment for cancer, the earlier you get it the better."
Professor Jon Rhodes, President of the British Society of Gastroenterology, adds that, “Mo one should have to wait more than four weeks for a diagnostic colonoscopy, since delayed diagnosis is a major factor underlying the country's relatively poor survival rates for colorectal cancer." He also adds that the NHS has too few endoscopists to cope with demand.
Despite the warnings raised by Dr Potter and others, the Department of Health continues to deny that waiting times are becoming a problem. A spokeswoman has stated that, "Waiting times are low and have been broadly stable since 2008. The latest figures show that 90.5% of admitted patients and 97.5% of non-admitted patients started treatment in under 18 weeks.”
If you have been affected by a delay in treatment or diagnosis, or if you believe that the medical treatment you have received is below a reasonable standard, then we have a dedicated team of clinical negligence solicitors who would be happy to advise you further. Call us for free initial advice on 0844 245 6602.
By clinical negligence solicitor, Tom Mooney