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Public want extra NHS cash to be spent on bringing down waiting times

Nearly three out of four poll respondents opted to cut waits for planned treatment

Caroline White

Monday, 05 November 2018

Nearly three out of four people want the additional funding the government has pledged for the NHS to be used to help cut record high waiting lists for scheduled treatment, the results of a new nationally representative poll indicate.

The poll, conducted by ComRes, on behalf of The NHS Partners Network, the representative body for independent sector healthcare providers, found that seven in 10 British adults (72%) believe that meeting the 18-week target for accessing planned NHS treatment, such as hip and knee operations, should be a priority if the NHS gets more money from government.

A similar proportion (69%) say this standard should be met even with the NHS under significant financial pressure.

ComRes interviewed 2060 British adults aged 18+ on two days in October 2018. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of the adult population by age, gender, region and social grade.

Next year marks the 15th anniversary of the introduction of the 18-week referral to treatment target. But this standard has been missed every month for the past two and a half years, with the latest NHS figures showing over 530 000 people currently waiting over 18 weeks for treatment after a GP referral.

In response to the poll results, a coalition of health bodies, including the NHS Partners Network, the Royal College of Surgeons, the Patients Association and the British Orthopaedic Association, have written to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, calling on the government to prioritise cutting waiting times for non-urgent treatment as part of the forthcoming NHS 10-year plan.

Recent analysis undertaken by the NHS Partners Network found that on current trends, the number of people expected to wait over 18 weeks for treatment is set to reach one million by 2024, the end of the five-year funding period for the NHS announced by the prime minister in June.

And this latest poll found that over half of British adults said they would be unwilling to pay more tax for the NHS if waiting times for non-urgent treatments were to lengthen.

David Hare, chief executive of the NHS Partners Network said: “Today’s polling demonstrates just how much the public values accessing fast and effective NHS treatment. But too many people are currently subject to unacceptably long waits for procedures such as hip and knee operations which would greatly improve their quality of life.

“With the announcement of more money for the health service earlier this year, patients will rightly be expecting to receive much better access to vital NHS care, and the government must move quickly to getting the NHS back on track to meet the 18-week target.

“We are therefore today calling on the government to acknowledge the critical importance of shorter NHS waiting times for patients and to ensure that the 10-year plan delivers the improvements that the public tell us that they need to see."

Full data tables can be found on comresglobal.com.

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