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The number of people waiting for hospital operations in England is at the highest level in more than a decade raising concerns over the amount of suffering endured by those waiting and the mounting potential for medical negligence claims as a result.
It is thought that around 4.2 million people are waiting to be seen, the highest number since 2007. The number of patients waiting longer than they should has gone over the 500,000 mark for the first time in ten years, although the accuracy of individual Trusts data has been questioned in previous years. In the same period last year roughly 382,000 patients were waiting 18 weeks for their routine surgery therefore showing a sharp increase in the waiting times experienced year on year.
Current NHS targets state that patients should not wait more than 18 weeks for routine operations from referral by GP or consultant including cataract surgery and hip and knee replacements. A wait of more than this time can have an adverse impact on a patient’s wellbeing and lead to increased suffering as well as increasing the risk of further complications and a longer recovery time. Those that have been subject to a longer waiting time may be able to pursue a surgical error claim to seek compensation as a result.
The figures released by the NHS show that in April only 87.5 percent of patients were seen within the 18 week targets, falling short of the government target of 92 percent of patients being seen within this time. Even more alarmingly is that figures suggest around 3,000 patients are waiting approximately one year for routine surgery, potentially having grave effects on patient recovery times.
The increased patient waiting times are attributed to the winter crisis that the NHS experienced during late 2017/early 2018 whereby a number of non-urgent operations had to be cancelled to cope with the increased demand for health services during the colder months. However, as we are now passing the mid-year point, concerns have been aired about whether the current waiting lists and times can be reduced before we approach the next winter, or whether the number of patients waiting for routine operations is potentially going to increase further.
These latest figures however raise concern over the impact on patient welfare and may place hospitals in a position whereby patients are pursuing a hospital negligence claim to seek compensation should they have suffered because of these delays. Concerns may also be aired about the overall impact on the quality of care provided should hospitals be rushing in order to reduce the waiting numbers.
Commenting on these figures, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons Ian Eardley said:
“If patients have to wait excessively long for surgery there is a risk their condition will deteriorate and the treatment will be less effective. It is also very distressing – and debilitating for someone who is living with a painful condition – to have to wait a long time for treatment.”