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In the News: NHS waiting times

This is around 250,000 more people waiting to be treated compared to 2012, according to the NHS annual report for 2012/2013 on the referral to treatment (RTT) programme, which states that patients must be seen within 18 weeks of referral. Despite the extended waiting list, the report states that this target was met in 2012/2013.

The news has of course invited political response; Labour has claimed that the waits are a result of the coalition's cuts to services and "government mismanagement", while the Conservatives have focused on the increase in operations per year compared to 2010. The NHS, however, has said that the ageing population and growing number of people living with long-term conditions has been a major contributor to hospital demand.

Statistics

Last month the National Audit Office said in a report that waiting time figures may not be entirely accurate, and suggested that the system was "riddled with errors" - meaning that although the records show that the NHS was on target with its waiting times, this may not reflect reality.

The study audited 650 orthopaedic patients and found that records were only accurate in 43 per cent of cases - and in 31 per cent of patients there was no evidence that wait time had been logged at all. The average underestimate of waiting time was three weeks, while others were over-estimated by as much as 75 days.

A spokeswoman for health secretary Jeremy Hunt commented: "Overall waiting times remain low and stable, with the number of patients waiting longer than 18, 26 and 52 weeks lower than at any time under the last government. It's crucial that reporting is always accurate, and we will work with the NHS to make sure hospital staff get the support they need to get this right."

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/13/patients-nhs-waiting-list-coalition

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jan/23/nhs-waiting-time-data-errors

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