...By Enitan Thompson for TDPel Media.
Official figures reveal that the UK government has failed to achieve its target of eliminating waits of over 18 months for planned National Health Service (NHS) care by April of this year.
Data from NHS England indicates that, as of the end of March, 10,737 people were still waiting beyond the 18-month mark for routine treatment.
While this number is down from 29,778 at the end of February, it demonstrates a failure to meet the government’s goal.
Moreover, the figures show that 41% of the cases fall into categories such as patients choosing to wait longer or exceptionally complex cases, leaving 59% as routine waits.
The inability to eliminate long waits for NHS care highlights the challenges faced by the healthcare system in delivering timely treatment.
The government, along with NHS England, had set an ambition to return the number of patients waiting beyond 18 months to pre-pandemic levels by April 2023.
However, the latest data suggests that this target has been missed.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had previously promised to reduce waiting lists and ensure quicker access to care.
Unfortunately, the figures released indicate a record high number of people in England waiting to begin routine hospital treatment.
The failure to meet the 18-month target is not the only concern.
The data also reveals that the NHS missed the key 62-day cancer target.
This target aimed to bring the number of patients waiting more than 62 days for urgent GP referral for suspected cancer back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023.
The latest figures show 19,248 patients waiting longer than 62 days, compared to an average weekly figure of 13,463 in February 2020.
The government’s failure to eliminate long waits for NHS care raises questions about its ability to effectively manage healthcare services.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting criticizes the broken promises, emphasizing the Tories’ lack of trustworthiness when it comes to the NHS.
However, Health Secretary Steve Barclay highlights the progress made in reducing 18-month waits, attributing it to the hard work and support of healthcare staff.
The ongoing challenges faced by the NHS, including strikes and high demand, suggest that more needs to be done to address the underlying issues.
Tim Gardner from the Health Foundation points out that although very long waits have decreased, the record-high waiting list of 7.3 million reflects the rising demand for healthcare services.
He also highlights the concerning wait times for patients with serious conditions and emphasizes the need to address the underlying challenges faced by the health service.
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, acknowledges the efforts made by trusts to reduce long waits but stresses the need to continue working towards improving waiting times and lists across various healthcare services.
The NHS data also reveals that the average response time for ambulances attending the most urgent incidents in April was slightly above the target of seven minutes.
Additionally, a significant number of patients were waiting longer than six weeks for diagnostic tests in March.
These statistics indicate the strain faced by the NHS in providing timely care across various areas.
The failure to eliminate long waits for NHS care and meet key targets raises concerns about the capacity and effectiveness of the healthcare system.
The government and NHS must address these challenges to ensure that patients receive the care they need in a timely manner.