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PAC Committee report on NHS waiting times: all the key reaction

Nick Ville, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said:

“This report confirms the bleak reality of what we already knew: that the NHS is taking longer to treat patients.

“The skilled and dedicated staff working in front-line NHS services continue to do all they can for patients, but there is only so far they can stretch.

“This report is further proof of how important it is for the NHS to implement the vision set out in the Long Term Plan. Joining up care for our local communities will be vital if the NHS is to improve care for patients and respond to rising demand. That and a new workforce strategy to address the NHS staffing crisis will be crucial to the long-term sustainability of the health service.”

Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund said:

“Thanks to the efforts of staff the NHS is treating more people than ever before, but after a decade-long spending squeeze and now a full-blown staffing crisis, it is little wonder that waiting lists for planned NHS care have soared in recent years.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that NHS ‘waiting lists’ are made up of people; over 4 million people who may be living in pain, who will be seeking help from other services such as GPs or pharmacists. As the Committee has highlighted, we need a clearer focus and understanding of the impact long waits have on patient health and wellbeing, and more concrete proposals on how waiting times can be improved.

“The NHS is currently reviewing its waiting times targets. But changing waiting time targets alone will not solve the underlying pressures that have led us to this point. Without an effective workforce strategy and increased investment in diagnostics equipment, staff training and social care, the NHS will have little hope of meeting current or new performance targets.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA chair of council, said:

“The latest PAC report echoes the findings of the BMA’s recent analysis of NHS data in England, which painted a picture of an NHS struggling to cope with unsustainable pressure from rising workload, stagnating budgets and widespread staff shortages.

“It is particularly worrying that alongside increasing overall waiting lists, cancer treatment services continue to plunge further into crisis, with six out of ten trusts failing to ensure patients are seen within the 62-day standard – a pledge set out in the NHS constitution’s handbook. This is a vital part of the health service which should be providing fast, effective and caring treatment at an early stage for what can be a life-threatening condition. It is unacceptable that patients and their families should have to endure the added stress of having to wait weeks and weeks for further care, well beyond recommended limits.

“The BMA’s own research showed cancer services suffered from unprecedented strain this winter. There are also worrying figures which show that bed shortages are directly leading to delays in elective care across the NHS.

“The Government must act to address this mounting crisis and listen to the BMA’s call for increased, immediate funding to frontline services which must include a long term plan that addresses the workload and workforce pressures that are damaging patient care.”

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