Britain's National Health Service hospitals are facing a crisis as more than 11,000 people are being made to wait longer than 6 weeks for scans and internal examinations.
The previous government had passed the order that hospitals should start treatment for any disease within 18 weeks of a patient seeing their GP. This got quick results as patients were booked in quickly for scans and tests for the treatment process to start.
AdvertisementBut the new Government, last year, had declared that the waiting time pledge would no longer be monitored as it was felt that the targets for treatment times were not the priorities.
With a relaxation of the rules, the system has slowed down and hundreds of patients are being forced to wait for more than 13 weeks to find out if they have a life-threatening disease.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, has very forcefully said, "Last week, the Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir David Nicholson, wrote to NHS staff saying that they should not allow themselves to become lax about waiting times. This is not enough. The Government must take concerted efforts to prevent this continuing downward trend and ensure patients are not waiting longer and longer for treatments and tests."
A comparative analysis between last year's and this year's figures show a marked increase in the number of people waiting for all kinds of testing. The most appalling change has been with patients waiting for MRI scans. While in January 2010 there were 808 patients in England waiting six weeks for an MRI scan, a year later there were 2,224, a rise of 175 per cent.
David Cameron and his government have been fully blamed for this situation. John Healey, the shadow health secretary has commented, "David Cameron pledged to protect the NHS, but the reality is it has fast become his biggest broken promise."
On the other hand, the government is trying to defend itself. A Department of Health spokesman claims, "Our modernisation plans for greater patient choice will drive improvements in quality and waiting times. But because waiting times are only one part of high quality patient care, we're also focusing the NHS on the actual results it delivers for patients, such as whether people survive cancer."
Yet again, another study claims that the previous Labour government really did not benefit the people much in spite of tripling the budget on the NHS. In fact, the Centre for Policy Studies claims that productivity in the health service fell by 34 per cent between 1995 and 2008.
In the face of all these conflicting views it remains to be seen how the NHS will tackle the present challenging situation.