NHS waiting times for routine operations up 6% in 2011

Waiting times rose but number of procedures fell last year

The Patients Association is calling for the Government to take action to cut NHS waiting times after research by the body revealed a 6% increase in waiting times last year.

A Freedom of Information request from the Patients Association to NHS Acute Trusts in England revealed that waiting times for routine procedures such as knee replacements increased by 6% between 2010 and 2011, while the number of operations taking place fell.

Across the 93 trusts that responded with sufficient data, there were 18,628 fewer operations performed in 2011 compared to 2010, a decline of 4.6%. The biggest fall was in cataract procedures, which saw a 7.5% decrease.

Meanwhile, the largest increase in waiting times was for knee replacements, which saw an increase of 10.3 days on average, from 88.9 days to 99.2.

Waits for hernia operations increased by eight days, from 70.4 to 78.3, while waits for gallstone procedures rose by seven days, from 73.2 to 80.6.

The Patients Association says the rise in waits for hip, knee, hernia, gallstone and hysterectomy operations was significant, with waits for knee, hernia and gallstone operations all seeing increases of 10%.

The patients' campaign group published similar research last year, which also showed a fall in the number of procedures and an increase in waiting times for 2010 compared to 2009.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Unfortunately the results this year show a continuation of the trend and an even more marked increase in waiting times.

“We hear lots of talk from the Government about waiting times falling but whilst this may be true in other areas, it doesn't address the problem in relation to elective surgical procedures.”

She said that action must be taken now to ensure this trend does not continue into 2013 and beyond.

Murphy added: “Patients are calling our helpline to tell us that they are being left to wait in agony, and that their desperate calls to the hospital for help are being ignored. Clinicians may deem these procedures to be of low clinical value, but that is irrelevant for a patient being asked to put up with a lower quality of life for longer.

“There needs to be transparency about waiting times for particular procedures, and problem areas need to be tackled.”

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