Delay to introduction of financial penalties for NHS waiting list failings

Hospital bosses to be given more time to adjust to new regime - report

A Government plan to tackle so-called “hidden” waiting lists has been delayed in order to give the NHS time to adjust to working to new targets.

The plan – announced just two months ago by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley – would have seen hospitals fined if they allowed people to wait too long for treatment.

Under NHS rules, patients should be treated within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP. In November, NHS managers were told that they had to reduce the number of long waiters from this year – and by about 50,000 by April – or face penalties.

But according to the Health Service Journal, the Department of Health has said that penalties will now only be introduced "once progress has been made on validating the backlog data and the NHS has had time to adjust to working to the new standard”.

While hospitals are expected to make progress towards that goal, penalties will not now be introduced until 2013/14, later than had already been suggested.

Data suggests there are around 250,000 people waiting longer than 18 weeks to be treated and thousands have waited for more than a year.

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