Target for routine operations missed for first time

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Posted 15/02/2016 By: Julie Crossley

The target for routine operations, such as hip and knee ops, has been missed for the first time in England. At the end of December 91.8% of patients on the waiting list had been waiting less than 18 weeks. The target, put in place in April 2012, is 92%.

December 1 was the day of the first junior doctors strike. It was called off at the last minute, but hospitals had already cancelled a few thousand operations. The NHS England statistics show that at the end of December the number of patients waiting to start treatment for routine operations was just under 3.3 million and of those, 755 people had been waiting for longer than 52 weeks.

The figures show that the 92% target to treat patients within 18 weeks was missed in:

Plastic surgery – 87%

Neurosurgery – 87%

General surgery – 88.6%

Oral – 91.2%

Ear nose and throat – 90.8%

Cardiothoracic – which relates to the heart and chest or lungs – 88.7%

An NHS England spokesman said: “Hospitals continue to treat more than nine out of ten patients within 18 weeks of their referral.

The Royal College of Surgeons said the figures showed there been a 12% increase in delays in 2015 compared to the calendar year of 2014.”

There was also increasing concern about the rising number of patients being delayed from leaving hospital to go home or to alternative care environments. If hospitals do not have beds free, one of the consequences of this is a cancelled operation. This not only places the patient at greater safety risk, such as falls, or immobility which can lead to infection, but also denies much needed hospital beds to others.

Julie Crossley, a medical injury lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “Any delay in treatment is detrimental to the patient, leading to anxiety, prolonged pain and risks of falling or further injury. Whilst a delay of this nature is not likely to lead to litigation it causes unnecessary distress particularly if surgery is cancelled at the last minute. The discharge of patients once surgery has been performed remains an ongoing and worsening problem. As we all live longer and more care homes and community care is required it is probable the situation will deteriorate rather than improve.”


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