NHS ‘waving white flag’ as it axes 18-week waiting time operation target

Patients will face longer delays for operations after the NHS decided to shelve one of its most important waiting time targets as part of its ambitious survival plan, which will also result in hundreds of thousands of people being denied surgery.

Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, has announced that the NHS is significantly relaxing the requirement on hospitals to treat, within 18 weeks, 92% of all patients in England who are waiting for a hip or knee replacement, cataract removal, hernia repair or other non-urgent operation.

A clampdown on surgery deemed of “limited clinical value” will affect people with certain spinal conditions, for example. Overall, a greater number of people with back pain will be treated with physiotherapy rather than surgery.

Stevens said rolling back the 10-year-old 92% target was necessary so that hospitals could concentrate on more urgent priorities, particularly in terms of easing the strain on overloaded A&E departments, as well as enhancing access to GPs and improving the treatment of cancer – diagnosis will be speeded up to 28 days – and mental health care.

Full story in The Guardian, 31 March 2017