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Waiting time breaches rising

17th June 2011

New figures show that the number breaches of waiting time limits in England are increasing.

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Figures for April showed 51 trusts missed the target for 90% of patients to be seen within 18 weeks, up from 25 a  year ago.

The target for hospitals to see 90% of patients within 18 weeks was to allow some flexibility, in the event of patients choosing to wait longer in specific circumstances or because of clinical requirements.

Overall, the national figures showed that 90.5% of inpatients were seen within the target time.

But some areas were struggling, particularly in London, the South East, south coast and North West with Hastings and Rother the worst performing with  more than 25% of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks.

Professor John Appleby of the King's Fund health think tank said the figures would continue to go up.

“In the end, the government will probably have to start getting tougher if it wants to keep to the 18 weeks. It surprises me more patients aren’t challenging this now it is a right,” he said.

With funding issues behind the increase, the Patients Association said it was evidence of "financial need overtaking clinical necessity".

Director Katherine Murphy said: “We’ve continued to receive calls to our helpline every day from worried patients who cannot understand why 18 weeks is not being adhered to.”

The Department of Health said that nationally the limit was still being kept to and that greater transparency in waiting times would help patients to make a choice of where to have their treatment.

 

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