The latest performance figures from NHS England (NHSE) represent a ‘worrying decline’ in access to NHS care, the chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) has warned.
Figures published by NHSE last week reveal 87% of patients were seen within the 18-week referral to treatment target for elective treatment in February 2019, marking three years since the NHS last met its target to treat 92% of elective patients within 18 weeks.’
Commenting on the figures IHPN CEO David Hare said: ‘While we welcome the recent NHS Long Term Plan commitments to increase the amount of planned surgery delivered year on year, including through making use of independent sector capacity, what we now need from NHS England is a clear delivery plan on how to get waiting times down. This must include utilising the spare capacity available in the independent sector and communicating much more effectively the legal rights that patients have to choose the best provider for them.
‘We are also clear any potential reforms to the 18-week target must be fully tested and driven solely by the needs of patients, not by diluting the target to make it easier to hit.’
The government’s target to ensure 92% of patients wait no longer than 18 weeks from referral to treatment for elective procedures, such as hip and knee operations, has not been met since February 2016.
The number of patients waiting over the 18-week referral to treatment target has increased by almost one fifth in the last 12 months from 454,000 in February 2018 to 540,000 in February 2019.
The number of people waiting more than one year for elective surgery was 1,963 at the end of February 2018 – up from just 539 patients five years ago.