New analysis of NHS waiting times in England has found that the number of people waiting for NHS treatment is set to hit almost 6 million by the end of the current Parliament unless urgent action is taken.
Currently 4.6 million people are waiting for vital NHS treatment such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts, a figure set to rise by one third to 6 million by 2024 based on recent trends.
The figures, analysed by the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), which represents independent healthcare providers, also found that over one million people will be waiting longer than the NHS’ 18 week target for care, a measure that has not been met for almost four years.
This analysis comes as the new NHS Funding Bill has been introduced into Parliament which enshrines in law an extra £33.9 billion in the health service by 2024. IHPN are calling for the NHS to ensure tackling waiting lists is a key priority for the new investment, and with NHS hospitals operating at near to full capacity, for the NHS to make more use of the significant capacity available in the independent sector to speed up patients’ access to care.
Key to achieving this is making far more patients aware that they have a legal rights to choose where they receive their NHS care, whether in an independent or NHS hospital, helping them to find the provider with the shortest waiting times and the highest standards of treatment. The cost of being treated in an NHS or independent hospital is the same to the NHS.
David Hare, Chief Executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said:
“NHS waiting lists are already at a record high and these figures demonstrate just how far patients’ access to vital NHS treatment will deteriorate over the next Parliament unless urgent action is taken.
“The Government has rightly put in billions of pounds of additional investment into the NHS but patients will rightly demand tangible improvements in the care they receive as a result. With the public routinely stating that a lack of access to NHS care is the biggest driver of dissatisfaction with the health service, the Government must now prioritise cutting waiting times for surgery such as hip and knee operations and cataracts, without which many millions of people will be left in unnecessary pain with the potential for more complex medical conditions to develop.
“The pressures facing the NHS are of course significant, and NHS providers alone will not be able to meet this rising demand for care. It is therefore important that the significant capacity available in the independent sector is utilised to help ensure patients can be treated as quickly as possible. A key part of this will be putting more power in the hands of patients and ensuring they are supported to exercise their legal right to choose where they receive their NHS care, including in the independent sector, who offer services to patients paid for at NHS prices, to NHS standards and free at the point-of-use.”