Tories pay to hit NHS targets they had vowed to scrap

Hospitals and GPs given an extra £200m to cut waiting times in spite of pre-election pledge

Hospitals and GPs have been quietly offered an extra £200m in an
attempt to hold down waiting times this winter. With little
fanfare, the four new regional bodies that now oversee the NHS in
England have been told they can each spend up to £50m in the next
month to treat patients more quickly.

Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, told The Independent on Sunday the money from efficiency savings can be released "to the front line to enable people to access NHS services more quickly".

"This additional funding will mean the NHS can make even more progress in reducing the number of people who have to wait over a year for treatment," he added.

But critics say the emphasis on the 18-week target for treatment marks a U-turn for the Tories, who vowed in opposition to scrap centrally imposed deadlines. And it comes as the Government draws up a battle plan to pass its controversial Health and Social Care Bill into law.

This week the Commons Health Select Committee is expected to use a report on NHS spending to warn that the reforms – being debated in the Lords – are a distraction from the blueprint from the NHS chief executive, Sir David Nicholson, to save a total of £20bn by 2015. The committee, led by former Tory Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell, will say that the reforms are obstructing efforts to make the NHS more efficient. While health spending has been protected from cuts, increases are outpaced by growing demand. Average waits in November 2011 were 8.1 per cent, down 0.2 per cent on 2010. But there are some marked variations. For example, 99.1 per cent of geriatric medicine patients were seen within 18 weeks, compared with 83.9 per cent of trauma and orthopaedic conditions. In all, 47 trusts failed to meet the target to treat 90 per cent of admitted patients within 18 weeks. In November, 29,508 patients waited more than 18 weeks.

In December David Flory, the NHS deputy chief executive, wrote to the four new regional "clusters" offering £50m to "support improving and sustaining access" to services. The money must be returned by 15 February if it is not used.

Chris Ham, chief executive of the King's Fund think tank, said: "This government, having ostensibly given up on targets, has not done so. Andrew Lansley has been too focused on his legislation changing the organisation of the health service and maybe has lost sight a little of what really matters to patients."

The Government argues that the scale of the savings cannot be achieved without the reforms, which hand £60bn in health spending to new commissioning consortia led by GPs. Baroness Williams, the Liberal Democrat peer opposed to the reforms, claims Nick Clegg "realised that he had to read the Bill" only after a storm of protest from his party. "To be fair, he was up to his neck in everything else. I don't think he'd had time," she told the BBC Radio 4 programme David Cameron's Big Idea, to be broadcast today at 1.30pm.

Comment: 'We need some pragmatism along with the politics'

Mike Farrar, chief executiveof the NHS Confederation

"There is a sense of sleepwalking into some serious difficulties. We fully expect a number of NHS organisations to fall into difficulties this year – and the problems will only grow unless action is taken. If we are to keep the NHS sustainable in the long term, we need to be honest that this will mean fundamentally reorganising they way we deliver care in the best interests of patients. Some local hospital services will need to close or move into larger specialist centres.

"The Government's reforms are a distraction. We need some pragmatism and realism, along with the politics, if we are to steer the NHS through these choppy waters."

 

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?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent