Waiting times for hospital treatment have reached their highest level for three years as the NHS spending squeeze begins to bite, according to a new quarterly monitoring report published by The King’s Fund.
The new report – the first of a regular update that will be published by the Fund every quarter – provides a snapshot of the state of the NHS.
Among the key findings:
- In February 2011, 15 % of hospital inpatients waited over 18 weeks for treatment – the highest level since April 2008
- The proportion of patients waiting more than six weeks for diagnostic services fell back in February, reversing a steady increase since June 2010
- Levels of hospital-acquired infections have fallen to their lowest level in recent years, while delays in transferring patients out of hospital remain stable.
Professor John Appleby at The King’s Fund says, ‘This report will provide a regular health check on the state of the NHS as it comes to terms with the new financial climate and implements the government’s reforms. It highlights significant concern among NHS finance directors – who are well placed to report on the stresses in the system – about the prospects for the year ahead. With hospital waiting times rising, the NHS faces a considerable challenge in maintaining performance as the financial squeeze begins to bite.’
The Labour government set a target that 90 % of patients should be treated within 18 weeks of referral to hospital from their GP. In June 2010, the current government announced that performance management of this target would cease as part of its drive to end many targets. The right to hospital treatment within 18 weeks is enshrined within the NHS Constitution.