Government denies 'worrying' reduction in NHS surgery


Fewer knee and hip replacements are being carried out in NHS hospitals, according to "worrying" figures obtained by the Patients Association.

Responses by NHS trusts in England to the charity's survey about nine categories of elective surgery show that, compared to 2009, 11% fewer tonsillectomies were carried out in 2010, 6% fewer knee replacements and 3% fewer hip replacements.

On average patients are waiting eight days longer for hip and knee replacements, and six days longer for hysterectomies, the research suggests.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "This research backs up what patients are telling us every day on our helpline, less operations are being carried out, and those fortunate enough to get an operation are having to wait longer for it to take place. In the context of the twenty billion pounds of savings to come in future, this research paints a worrying picture about the present."

The Department of Health refuted the findings.

"There is no justification for asserting that quality of care is slipping," said a spokesman. "Official figures show that the NHS is delivering more for patients and that waiting times are stable."

According to hospital episode statistics data there were 41,863 hip operations between April and October 2010, compared to 39,114 in 2009. 

There were 45,463 knee replacement operations between April and October 2010, compared to 2009.

Waiting times have gone up by one day, for both procedures.

There were 200,379 cataract operations between April to October 2010 compared to 197,835 in 2009. Waiting times are the same.

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