Department of Health has overseen YEARS of worsening delays for cancer patients and planned NHS care, damning report claims
- A record 6.1million people are now on the waiting list for routine procedures
- Waiting times are ‘too dependent on where people live’, MP committee warned
- They added that there is no national plan to address the ‘post code lottery’
The Department of Health has ‘overseen years of decline’ in the performance of NHS cancer and waiting times targets, a damning report states.
A record 6.1million people are now on the waiting list for routine procedures like hip and knee replacements — but this is likely to spiral for several years.
Waiting times are ‘too dependent on where people live’ and there is no national plan to address the ‘post code lottery’, the Public Accounts Committee warned.
NHS England has not met its 18-week target for people to receive planned treatment since February 2016. And it has failed to hit the eight key standards for cancer care in totality since 2014.
The Health and Social Care Levy will be deducted from the nation’s pay packets from April, raising almost £36billion over the next three years.
But the cross-party Committee says it is ‘extremely concerned’ that this cash, funded by a 1.25 per cent increase in national insurance, won’t result in better outcomes for patients facing long waits.
Data from NHS England shows one in nine people in the country were waiting for routine treatment — such as joint replacement and cataract surgery — or diagnostic tests as of the end of January
The Department of Health failed to sufficiently increase capacity to meet growing demand even before the pandemic and has ‘overseen years of decline in the NHS’s cancer and elective care waiting time performance’, the report says.
Ministers also failed to adequately tackle the growing workforce crisis in the NHS, with thousands more staff needed.
The number of patients having to wait more than a year to start planned treatment stood at 311,528 at the end of January — up from 310,813 in December.
A total of 23,778 people were waiting more than two years at the end of January — around nine times the figure in April 2021.
In September 2021, patients in the worst-performing geographic areas were more than twice as likely as patients in the best-performing regions to have been waiting over 18 weeks for planned care or more than 62 days for cancer treatment following an urgent referral.
There was a 12-fold difference between the worst and best areas in the proportion of patients waiting over a year for planned care.
Queues for routine operations are expected to peak in 2024 at around 10.7million in the most pessimistic scenario, modelling from the NHS shows. It is because the health service expects many patients who missed operations to now come forward for care
Other estimates showed up to 200,000 people could still be on waiting lists for more than a year by 2025 under the most pessimistic scenario. This was despite Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying year-long waits would end by this date
GPs are quitting because of the row over a lack of face-to-face appointments
GPs are quitting because of the row over a lack of face-to-face appointments, MPs were told yesterday.
Dr Andrew Green, a retired GP in Yorkshire, argued that doctors did a ‘fantastic job’ in moving to virtual appointments during the Covid pandemic.
But he accused both the Government and NHS England of joining in a ‘pile on’ that saw patients complain about being unable to see their doctor in person.
This was ‘distressing’ for GPs, lowered their self-esteem and effectively pushed them ‘away from the profession’, he told the Health and Social Care Committee.
Campaigners today criticised the ‘tiny minority’ of England’s 35,000 family doctors who ‘want to keep patient contact to a minimum’.
They said GPs ‘put off’ about patient demands for more face-to-face consultations ‘should reconsider their calling’.
An access row erupted last year as in-person GP appointments in England continued to hover around 60 per cent after Covid restrictions were eased, compared to eight in 10 consultations being face-to-face before the pandemic.
The report notes ‘a striking feature of the pandemic was that very large numbers of patients did not present at, or were unable to access, routine NHS services’.
As of September, there were between 7.6million and 9.1million missing referrals of patients for planned care and between 240,000 and 740,000 missing urgent referrals for suspected cancer.
People will face serious health consequences as a result of delays in treatment, with some dying earlier and many living with pain or discomfort for longer, MPs say.
Their report adds: ‘The very large numbers of people who have not presented for healthcare, or were not able to obtain it, during the pandemic, as well as those who have already been on waiting lists for long periods of time present a huge risk to primary and emergency care services.
‘This is because unmet health demand can result in more GP appointments and more medical emergencies as people try to manage or suffer the consequences of their conditions.’
Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the PAC, said: ‘DHSC has overseen a long-term decline in elective and critical cancer care that is dragging our national health service and the heroic staff down.
‘We on PAC are now extremely concerned that there is no real plan to turn a large cash injection, for elective care and capital costs of dangerously crumbling facilities, into better outcomes for people waiting for life-saving or quality-of-life improving treatment.
‘Nor is it obvious that the department finally understands that its biggest problem, and the only solution to all its problems, is the way it manages its greatest resource: our heroic NHS staff.
‘Exhausted and demoralised, they’ve emerged from two hellish years only to face longer and longer lists of sicker people. And this is compounded by staffing shortages in a number of professional areas.
‘The cycle of glib headlines and fiddling with management structures must be broken, with an overhauled ‘people plan’ that gets to the core of the desperate under-staffing and under-resourcing that have undermined our health system.’
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