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Worsening NHS waiting times show ‘system buckling under the strain’

RCN says staff shortages are at the heart of missed targets


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Patients are waiting far too long for hospital treatment, nursing and medical professional organisations have warned, after NHS figures released this week revealed huge rises in waiting list numbers in England.

The figures from NHS Digital show that:

  • In September 2018, 3,156 patients had waited more than 52 weeks for hospital treatment.
  • This is a rise of 78% since September 2017, when the figure was 1,778.
  • There were 542,435 emergency admissions in October 2018, 5.7% more than in October 2017.
  • In September 2018 the proportion of patients who received a first definitive treatment for cancer within 62 days of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer was 78.2%. This falls short of the operational standard of 85% of patients being treated within this time. 

‘No one should be waiting this long’

Commenting on the figures released this week, RCN England director Tom Sandford said: ‘No one should be waiting this long, yet the number of patients on the waiting list has grown 78% in a year. Everywhere you look you see our healthcare system buckling under the strain.

‘More patients are waiting more than two months to start urgent cancer treatment than at any time in the past three years. This is a further blow to patients and families enduring one of the most stressful times imaginable.

‘Staff shortages are at the heart of these missed targets and miserable trolley waits, and without urgent action we could see more vital services forced to close.’

Record high

The government is due to announce its £20 billion spending plan for the NHS in the coming weeks, but health experts are concerned the funds will not meet the immediate needs of patients.

British Medical Association consultants committee chair Rob Harwood said: ‘Last month, emergency admissions hit a record high, while the number of patients waiting more than four hours to be seen was almost 10% higher than last year.

‘These statistics represent what happened in hospitals during a relatively mild autumn, before the added pressure associated with much colder weather hits.’


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