Waiting lists for surgery 'show sharp increase'

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The Independent Online
SHARP increases in the number of patients facing long delays for surgery and widespread pessimism among health service managers over NHS funding emerge in two health service surveys published today, writes Judy Jones.

Seven of the 14 English health regions reported significant increases in the number of patients waiting up to one and a half years for operations in the post-election period last year, according to Pulse, the doctors' magazine.

North East Thames Regional Health Authority recorded a rise in the number waiting up to 17 months for treatment in the six months to December 1992, of 10,500 or 14.5 per cent. Similar increases were reported in the South Western region, Yorkshire, South West Thames, West Midlands, Northern and Trent.

The figures appear to confirm that patients with relatively minor conditions are being treated ahead of more urgent cases. The trend has emerged as an unintended side-effect of the Government's promise in the Patient's Charter that no one must wait more than two years for surgery.

In a second survey of 44 district health authorities, for today's edition of the British Medical Association's News Review, more than half admitted that curbs had been imposed on non-urgent operations in hospitals where they had placed contracts. Almost half of those questioned across England and Wales last month suspected the situation would not improve after the start of the new financial year in April.