According to the latest HNS data, the number of patients awaiting NHS hospital treatment has jumped by over 300,000 under the Coalition Government.
NHS England's annual report for 2012/13 on the referral to treatment (RTT) programme showed that 2.88 million people across England were waiting for consultant-led treatment in the last month of 2013. This represented a rise of 310,000 – 12 per cent on the figure recorded in May 2010.
The findings have sparked concern that rationing across the health service has led to many patients being forced to wait longer than ever for operations or treatment.
Chief executive of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, told The Guardian: “It's worrying that the number of extra people waiting is that high. That 310,000 is a huge number of people who are waiting for what is quite often life-changing surgery.
“Waiting lists are growing because of NHS rationing and because of financial pressures and the NHS's efficiency drive,” she added.
Ms Murphy also confirmed that delays were happening for all manner of operations, ranging from a hip replacement to a cataract removal.
Under the referral to treatment (RTT) programme, NHS patients are meant to receive treatment within 18 weeks of being referred. However, the figures showed that almost 250,000 more patients were waiting to start treatment over the course of last year than in 2012.
The Labour Party confirmed its belief that the health service was taking a backwards step as regards longer waiting lists, due to what it called “Government mismanagement”. Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham said that the figures proved that Prime Minister David Cameron had “broken his promise” in terms of keeping waiting times across the NHS down.
The reasons given behind the lengthening waiting times were the increasing number of people suffering from one or more long-term conditions, and the ageing population. Both of these factors, amongst others, were creating greater demand for NHS services.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party said that, despite population growth, the NHS was performing 475,000 more operations annually than before May 2010. The Party also confirmed that less patients were waiting 18, 26 or 52 weeks for hospital treatment than at any time under the Labour Government.
A Conservative spokesman told the newspaper that these figures were a “testament to the hard work of doctors and nurses in meeting increased patient demand while keeping waiting times lower than Labour ever managed”.