Top NHS trusts voice fears over waiting time targets


Dr David Bennett: "The focus is entirely on making sure if there are problems that they get fixed"

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Some of the top-performing NHS trusts in England are warning they may fail to hit waiting time targets this year, official documents show.

Annual plans from foundation trusts show one in six predicts it will struggle to see patients needing non-emergency operations in time.

Similar numbers expressed concern about A&E waiting times, the review by regulator Monitor showed.

The government said foundation trusts should keep waiting times down.

Foundation trusts are the top-performing organisations in the NHS in England. So far 96 hospital trusts have been granted the status - just under half of the total number in the health service.

Growing concerns

But the review of their annual plans by Monitor showed even these trusts were struggling to keep pace with demand and the need to make savings.

Sixteen trusts declared a risk of non-compliance for the 18-week limit for elective care, such as knee and hip replacements.

The warning comes amid growing concerns about the length of time hospitals are keeping patients waiting.

Start Quote

We are very clear with foundation trusts that savings cannot be made by compromising on quality”

End Quote Dr David Bennett Monitor

The NHS has been told it should see 90% of in-patients within 18 weeks - the 10% leeway is allowed to reflect the fact that some patients may wait longer for valid personal or medical reasons.

Overall that figure is still being met, according to latest statistics, but that masks what is happening behind the scenes with growing evidence that long waits are on the rise and particular problems in certain specialities.

The Monitor review also revealed another 14 foundation trusts were worried about whether they would be able to keep to the four-hour A&E target.

More than 20 trusts also claimed they may run into financial difficulties in the coming year.

The names of the trusts were not being disclosed by Monitor, but the regulator warned the situation may even be worse if the winter was particularly harsh.

Monitor chairman Dr David Bennett added: "The challenge of reducing costs must be met, but it is essential that good patient care is at the heart of this.

"We are very clear with foundation trusts that savings cannot be made by compromising on quality."

A spokesman for the Department of Health agreed standards should not slip.

"Foundation trusts must demonstrate that they are improving outcomes for patients and managing their finances effectively as well as ensuring that waiting times are kept low."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    As a regular visitor to clinics I like to point out to those complaining about the waiting time that they can jump to the head of the queue and they get all keen until I point out the way to achieve this is to go private.
    I find things as they are to be fine and much better than they used to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    As someone who works closely with the NHS in terms of helping them address these issues, I can tell you that the queues warned about here are challenges for the whole healthcare system not just hospital trusts and foundations. they are invariably caused by an inability to discharge patients into social care, care at home and other governmental services - this is where the spotlight should focus

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Working in the NHS, in a system that under Labour was well funded and now will get worse, I can say that as a doctor everyone is feeling the strain. People moan about not being seen within the time limit, but at least it is free. Many people would struggle to get health insurance if we went to US system. So just accept its never perfect but does the best with what it has.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    I can only speak from my own experience of the NHS, but I found the service to be fast, effective and well organised.

    Suffering from an essentially benign (but painful) condition, I went from the GP to tests to seeing the consultant in a matter of 6 weeks. I was offered an operation and was told that I would have to wait just 4 weeks.

    Can't complain with that service, in my humble opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    I think NHS and government and UK public will in the next few years have to make a choice as to which services will be provided & which will be removed due to necessity of non-affordability.

    You may scream & moan & whine about cuts & poor service & patients suffering & not getting treatments or whatever, but wake up, in year 2011, a £100,000 tempory heart is not sustainable or affordable.


Comments 5 of 11


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