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.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
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

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

    Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test