NHS waiting list at five-year high as cost-cutting reforms strike

Lancet journal accuses Coalition of treating health service like a  ‘failing bank or business’

More patients are waiting for NHS treatment than at any time in the past five years, new figures have revealed, as the Government came under twin attack from a leading health journal and the Labour party over its stewardship of the health service.

Numbers of patients waiting for treatment in the NHS have increased by more than 300,000 since the start of 2013, to 2.88 million people, according to figures released by NHS England yesterday.

Waiting lists for treatment are now longer than they have been since May 2008. Labour blamed the sharp rise on “overflowing A&E departments” put under pressure by Government cuts to social care and reductions in nursing posts since the Coalition came to power. The Department of Health, under Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt, pictured, hit back by arguing that, while waiting lists had increased, the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks to be seen was 55,000 lower than when the Coalition came to power, and insisted that A&E wards were hitting targets.

Further criticism follows today, however, as an editorial in The Lancet launches a furious attack on the Coalition’s NHS record, accusing it of treating the health service like “a failing bank or business”. The Lancet’s editors accuse the Coalition of setting it on a “path to a market commodity”. In an unusually outspoken attack, they said that the Coalition’s health reforms had delegated responsibility for running the health service to “a complex system of organisations” which are expected to cut costs and be financially successful “or else [be] deemed a failing enterprise”.

Referring to recent headlines about “bailouts” for A&E wards and Bargain Hunt-style cost-cutting exercises, the editors write that “one could be forgiven for thinking that the current Coalition Government views the NHS as a failing bank or business”.

“This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the Government abdicates all responsibilities for running a healthcare system that has patient care and safety at its heart,” they write.

In a pointed critique of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, The Lancet editors say that under the new system, “exact responsibilities are at best complex, not easily understood, and at worst deliberately obfuscated”.

Commenting on the appointment of a new chief executive of the NHS, a position that will be filled in the autumn, the editors said it was “astonishing” that the candidate “does not have to have experience in, or knowledge of healthcare systems”.

The editorial comes amid growing dissent among the medical profession over the impact of the Government’s health reforms, which came into effect in April this year and have been accused of and enabling private sector organisations to win more and more NHS contracts.

A Department of Health spokesman said that patient care was “a priority” for the Government – a fact signalled by the appointment of a new chief inspector of hospitals, Sir Mike Richards, who is tasked with raising standards of care throughout the NHS following widespread concerns about patient safety. 

The editorial comes amid growing dissent among the medical profession over the impact of the Government's health reforms, which came into effect in April this year and have been accused of promoting a culture of competition and enabling private sector organisations to win more and more NHS contracts.

The British Medical Association have said the changes were “forced on reluctant doctors and patients, entrenching competition and private provision as a way of answering the problems faced by health care.”

Responding to yesterday's waiting list figures, Andrew Gwynne, Labour's shadow health minister said: “David Cameron wasted £3 billion on an NHS reorganisation that took the focus off patient care. At the same time, almost five thousand nursing jobs were axed and cuts to older people's care budgets left thousands more vulnerable people arriving at A&E.”

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

    Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

    Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

    Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

    Day In a Page

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In my grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel