Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Lives at Risk' as Waiting Times Are Missed by NHS

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Lives at Risk' as Waiting Times Are Missed by NHS

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN WALKER Reporter jon.walker@reachplc.com

THE failure of NHS trusts to meet waiting times targets is putting patients at risk.

That's the finding of a hard-hitting inquiry by MPs including Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Conservative MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The House of Commons Health Committee found more patients are being let down by the NHS's failure to meet deadlines for waiting times.

Just half of NHS trusts meet the Government's target for ensuring patients referred for non-urgent, elective surgery are treated within 18 weeks.

And only 38% meet the target for treating cancer patients within 62 days of being referred.

The MPs found that demand for elective and cancer treatments is growing, which adds to the problem.

The waiting list for elective care has grown by one-and-a-half million since March 2013 to 4.2m in November 2018.

However, NHS figures show that most North East hospitals are meeting the target for treatment - and are doing better than the national average.

Across the UK, 86.7% of patients are waiting 18 weeks or less for elective surgery. The target is that 92% should be treated during this time period.

But at Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, 92.4% of patients receive elective surgery within 18 weeks.

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust also meet the official target.

MP Meg Hillier, the committee chair, said: "It is unacceptable that the proportion of patients being treated within NHS waiting times standards is continuing to spiral downwards; NHS England and the Department of Health & Social Care must regain control.

"The impact on individuals of protracted waiting times cannot be ignored. As one charity told us, the wait for cancer testing is 'agonising'. It is essential that a definitive answer is given as soon as possible, to either provide peace of mind or to allow treatment to begin at the earliest stage. …

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