NHS Waiting Times Reduction Stopped to Contain Costs

The NHS Confederation has confirmed that the NHS is limiting access to hospital care and halting a reduction in waiting time in order to contain costs, all in an effort to meet the £20bn in efficiency savings by 2015.

Although the organisation’s network of primary care trust providers (PCT) has denied that attempts have been made to deliberately block competition for services or denying patients a choice of provider.

Competition Panel Report

In a recent report by the Cooperation and Competition Panel claiming the NHS was restricting patient choice the network of PCT’s hit back stating that placing restrictions on choice and competition is sometimes justifiable when this is not against the interests of patients and tax payers as detailed in the rules on competition.

With the austerity measures in place a number have decided to temporarily reduce activity levels this year to help contain costs, by asking providers to extend (or not further reduce) their waiting times while keeping them within the constitutionally required 18 weeks.

Surgery put on hold for months

From a recent article by the BBC it was found in several areas routine surgery was put on hold for months, while in many others new thresholds for surgery such as hip and knee replacements had been introduced. The government response was to state that performance should be measured by outcomes not numbers. Surgeons have described the delays faced by patients as “devastating and cruel”. Peter Kay, the president of the British Orthopaedic Association (BOA), stated they’ve become increasingly frustrated that hip and knee replacements are being targeted as a way of finding savings.

PCTs are under severe financial pressure to deliver cost savings at the moment and it seems they are willing to do so in any way possible, which has seen some restrict access to certain treatments and increased the need to source the most cost-effective care from providers. Can we justify this as a viable means of making cost savings? Are the government going to stop at any length to meet these efficiency savings?