Concern at predicted increase in NHS waiting times

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Concern at predicted increase in NHS waiting times

8th July 2011

A medical negligence specialist has expressed her concern for patient care after NHS bosses admitted waiting times for operations will rise in the next 12 months.

Jacqui Hayat of Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: “There are very real concerns that the sweeping reforms being implemented across the NHS together with the continuing pressure to make savings across the service will damage patient’s access to treatment.”

In a survey conducted by the NHS Confederation - a group representing managers working across hospitals, mental health and ambulance trusts - more than half of all senior health service managers polled said the financial situation was the worst they had ever seen. Some ten per cent of managers said they believed patients’ safety would be harmed in the next 12 months and one in five predicted that the quality of service patients received would significantly worsen.

“There is huge anxiety that the massive financial difficulties facing the NHS will invariably lead to longer waiting times,” said Jacqui, a partner with the firm. “Only a month ago David Cameron pledged to keep waiting times below the existing 18-week limit for hospital operations as part of his initiative to calm fears over the reform programme. Alarmingly, the latest monthly statistics show that a third of trusts are already breaching this limit - double the number from a year ago.”

The research on the expected impact of health service reforms received 287 responses, only a third of the total polled, but enough to provide clear evidence of the kind of pressure the NHS is facing.

“Health care organisations are under incredible pressure to cut costs without compromising the quality of patient services,” said Jacqui. “This is at a time of rising demand due to our ageing population as well as community services being hit due to spending cuts implemented by local authorities. The end result is an increase to the already significant burden on hospitals and a rise in ‘bed-blocking’ with patients having to be kept in wards for much longer then necessary.”

Several survey respondents cited financial difficulties to be behind an increased rationing of services from fertility treatments to hip and knee operations. The general consensus believed waiting times would inevitably increase if it meant financial targets were to be met. Many stated longer waiting times would naturally lead to less patient satisfaction, less patients being diagnosed and treated, longer recovery times, increased complaints and greatly reduced confidence in the system as a whole.

“The government needs to provide clarity on their reforms and plans for modernisation as the next 18 months will determine the future health of the NHS,” said Jacqui. “There is real concern within the health service that widespread cutbacks in treatments and staff without a reduction in patient demand will inevitably lead to patient care being compromised.

“Staff retention at a time when the NHS is facing the biggest period of reforms and shake-ups in its history is incredibly important,” added Jacqui. “NHS doctors, nurses and particularly managers - who face the unenviable task of helping to keep costs down - must be supported so they can continue providing the best possible patient care. Our overriding concern must always focus on the requirements and expectations of the patient.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims relating to medical negligence.

If you think that you have a case or require further information, contact Fentons on 0800 019 1297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Read more: BBC