Conflict over NHS waiting figures: Parties at odds over performance of hospitals

Conflicting figures on how well the National Health Service is performing were produced by the Government and the Opposition yesterday, with Labour saying that more than 1 million people were waiting for hospital treatment and the Secretary of State for Health claiming an increase in hospital 'activity' and falls in waiting times.

David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, said the results of a telephone survey of regional and special health authorities in England showed that waiting lists had passed 1 million for the first time.

The figures, which are sent to the Department of Health but no longer published by the Government, showed 1,004,878 people waiting for treatment in April, an increase of 1.3 per cent over March.

The Labour survey showed waiting lists had increased in every region except North West Thames and Oxford and the special health authorities. Mr Blunkett said: 'These figures are a scandal. No amount of smooth talking from the Secretary of State can disguise the fact that waiting lists are at a record high.' He said the survey showed only half the picture as many people had to wait for more than a year before they appeared on the official waiting lists.

In contrast, Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, announced provisional NHS management executive figures which showed that 407,000 more patients were treated in health service hospitals in the year to March, a rise of 5.6 per cent over the previous year. She said the number of patients treated as day cases had increased by 18 per cent, and that one in five of all acute patients treated in hospital returned home the same day.

The Government's figures also showed the number of people who had to wait between one and two years for treatment had fallen by 29 per cent over the year, to 56,000, which was less than 6 per cent of the total on waiting lists.

Since the Government began emphasising hospital activity as opposed to numbers on waiting lists, critics have argued that some patients were having to return for treatment because they were discharged too early from hospital and that the figures distorted the true picture of patients being treated successfully.

Labour's figures showed that waiting lists had increased by almost 200,000, or 21.2 per cent, since the NHS reforms were announced in 1988.

However, Dr Brian Mawhinney, the Minister for Health, played down the waiting lists: 'All emergencies and urgent cases - half of all patients - are dealt with immediately. Of the other half, 50 per cent are dealt with within five weeks and 75 per cent within three months. In the final analysis the number of people on a waiting list is not important, provided that they are treated within a reasonable time.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss