'A&E crisis' reaching boiling point, Govt Ministers warn

Over the last few years, figures from NHS England have shown waiting lists for hospital treatment to be at an all-time high, and Government Ministers are calling for a resolution to this 'A&E crisis'.

With almost 2.9 million patients waiting for operations and other admissions at hospitals across England, the total waiting list number is currently sitting at a five-year high, NHS referral to treatment figures have revealed.

Last year – the 65th birthday of the NHS – saw 250,000 more people added to the list than in 2012, and concerns are rife that patients are now being forced to wait too long for medical attention in the country’s A&E units. 508,555 people in London alone were waiting for operations or other types of necessary treatment to start over summer 2013. Almost 60,000 more patients were being forced to wait for treatment at one of London’s 34 NHS hospitals than the same time period the year prior.

Access to the NHS has been a hot topic in recent years, so much so that the UK Government released a report in 2010 entitled the ‘NHS Constitution,’ which stated that no patient should be forced to wait more than 18 weeks for the treatment they needed. While this target was often met in theory, in practice many felt that waiting for 18 weeks did not make a successful healthcare system. Indeed, the number of London-based patients who were not receiving treatment within the 18 week target rose by 16 per cent between July and August last year, equivalent to 39,145 patients.

The NHS receives a regular blasting from the British media, reporting on endless waiting lists and poor patient care. Many articles criticised the harmful impact that Government control can have on the health care system, despite many of our neighbours across the pond believing nationalised health systems to be the holy grail of health care.

The Labour Party holds Cameron’s Government responsible for the extra-long waiting lists, which it says are due in part to the scrapping of the NHS Direct advice line and the wider health service shake-up. NHS regulator, Monitor, has warned that many hospitals have been forced to cancel operations or treatments that are non-urgent in a bid to deal “with increased A&E and non-elective pressures.”

The Department of Health confirmed that the NHS was carrying out four million more outpatient appointments and seeing a million more patients in A&E than it was three years ago. Almost two and a half million more diagnostic tests were also being carried out, the body said.

However, the Department of Health said that, despite the pressures, the NHS has recently recorded a “stable” average waiting time for operations, despite the rising numbers of patients on the waiting lists.