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More than 3,000 people waited over a year for treatment

‘Staff shortages at the heart of missed targets’

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 09 November 2018

More than 3,000 patients waited over a year for hospital treatment, new figures reveal.

The NHS Combined Performance Summary Statistics, published this week, show that for September 2018, 3,156 patients were waiting more than 52 weeks for hospital treatment, compared to 1,778 in September 2017 — an increase of 77.5%. 

Total attendance to A&E increased during the same time period by 2.8%. 

The target for the percentage of A&E attendances seen within four hours is set at 95%. The Royal College of Nursing notes, however, that this target has not been met since July 2015. Last month (October 2018) only 89.1% of patients in A&E were see within the target period. 

Targets were missed in other areas too. In September 2018, 78.2% of patients received a first definitive treatment for cancer following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer within 62 days — a slight dip from August 2018 when the figure was 79.4%. The operational standard specifies that 85% of patients should be treated within this time. 

Commenting, Tom Sandford, director of RCN England, said: “[These] figures show that more than 3,000 people have waited more than a year for hospital treatment, too often in pain and discomfort. No one should be waiting this long, yet the number of patients on the waiting list has grown 78% in a year – everywhere you look you see our healthcare system buckling under the strain.

“Just last week, a leading cancer centre in Essex announced it may have to close as it cannot recruit enough specialist nurses. More patients are waiting over two months to start urgent cancer treatment than any time in the last three years - this is a further blow to patients and families enduring one of the most stressful times imaginable.”

Mr Sandford blamed staffing issues for the shortages. 

“Staff shortages are at the heart of these missed targets and miserable trolley waits, and without urgent action we could see more vital services forced to close. These are the consequences of 42,000 nurse vacancies in England alone, projected by the RCN to rise as high as 48,000 in the next five years. As the 10-year plan for the NHS is drawn up, we are calling for £1 billion to fund nursing education to attract and support the nurses we need to keep patients safe.” 

In response, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Hardworking staff ensured nearly 9 out of 10 people were seen within four hours in A&E in October, despite the highest number of emergency admissions on record.

“We have given the NHS £1.6 billion this year to improve performance and cut waiting times, as well as £420 million in additional winter support to redevelop A&Es, improve emergency care and help patients get home quicker. Our historic long-term plan for the NHS, backed by an extra £20.5 billion a year by 2023/24, will improve front-line services and put our health service on a long-term sustainable footing.”

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