'Patients can sue NHS over waiting list scandal'

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The health service could be forced to compensate hundreds of patients over the scandal in which at least 10 hospital trusts fiddled waiting list figures, MPs will say today.

The health service could be forced to compensate hundreds of patients over the scandal in which at least 10 hospital trusts fiddled waiting list figures, MPs will say today.

More than 6,000 patients suffered when hospital managers deliberately massaged waiting list data to hide the fact that they were missing government targets for shorter queues. Some patients were forced to wait much longer than they should have done and Nigel Crisp, the chief executive of the NHS, has accepted that the health of some may have deteriorated.

In a report on the failings, published by the Commons Public Accounts Committee today, MPs say patients who were harmed could sue the hospitals involved.

George Osborne, the Tory MP for Tatton, forecasts that a few hundred patients could pursue legal claims against the NHS in the next few years because of "the systematic distortion" of waiting lists.

The committee is critical of the way the scandal was allowed to unfold and warned that the introduction of more onerous targets could result in further deception.

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