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Commitment to meet 18 week target quietly dropped from NHS Mandate

Date of publication: 21st May 2019

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Responding to the publication of the NHS accountability framework 2019-20, David Furness, Director of Policy and Delivery at the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said:

“It’s hugely disappointing that this year’s NHS accountability framework, which sets out the Government’s annual mandate to NHS England and Improvement, has quietly dropped any mention of the NHS once again meeting the 18 week target for elective care.

“Despite the NHS Constitution clearly setting out that patients have a right to receive non-urgent treatment within 18 weeks of a referral, in recent years this target has consistently been downgraded. As a result, hundreds of thousands of patients are now left waiting in pain for vital procedures such as hip replacements and cataracts. The public will now rightly ask if this target will ever again be met, particularly given that last year’s mandate required NHS England to once again meet the target but 2018/19 saw waiting lists reach record levels.

“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 the NHS 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.”