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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea