NHS Waiting Times

31 Jan 2011

GMB, the union for NHS staff, commented on the Health and Social Care Bill which received its second reading in the House of Commons today.

The average waiting time for NHS patients in England is 8.4 weeks as the NHS Reform Bill gets its second reading in the House of Commons. Andrew Lansley’s untested experiment, throwing the NHS into cost-cutting competition with private consortiums is going to strangle the life out of it and threatens longer waiting times says GMB.

The median average waiting time for treatment for NHS patients in England was 8.4 weeks in May 2010. Yorkshire and Humberside Strategic Health Authority with a median average waiting time of 7.0 weeks in May 2010 had the best record in England, while South East Coast Strategic Health Authority with average waiting times of 10.3 weeks in May 2010 had the least good record.

In England 92.9% of patients were treated within 18 weeks of being referred. The North East Strategic Health Authority had the best record of treating patients within 18 weeks with 95.9% treated. With 88.8% treated within the 18 weeks South Central Strategic Health Authority had the worst record on this indicator. This 18 weeks target has now been abolished.

Before the General Election a record 73% of people said they were “satisfied” with the NHS, but the ConDem coalition is nevertheless proposing wholesale changes.

The Health and Social Care Bill will replace Primary Care Trusts with GP consortiums responsible for purchasing NHS services from the “any willing provider” model in the public or private sector. NHS trusts will have to compete with private companies and with each other, as price competition and EU competition law is introduced into the NHS for the first time. The Government has said it will not bail out NHS trusts that find themselves in difficulty and the NHS Confederation has stated that “closure of existing services will be necessary”. The Bill also places a duty on the Health Secretary to secure “continuous improvement in the quality of services”.

GMB National Officer for Health, Rehana Azam said: “NHS staff have worked hard to create a service that we can all be proud of. They’ve nurtured the NHS, developing a public satisfaction higher than the UK has known before. They have delivered massive reductions in the waiting times from the average of over 18 weeks in 1997. Andrew Lansley’s untested experiment, throwing the NHS into cost-cutting competition with private consortiums is going to strangle the life out of it.

GMB are asking Secretary of State Lansley to put his own job on the line if the service gets worse as most people fear it will. He has abolished the target for the percentage of patients to be treated within 18 weeks so that any failures to deliver can no longer be monitored. There is an old maxim in politics “if it’s not broke don’t fix it”. It is something of a disgrace that the government are prepared to experiment with the running of a life and death service”.