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Exclusive: Thousands breach NHS waiting times

PUBLISHED: 09:25 02 September 2010 | UPDATED: 09:33 02 September 2010

Queen Mary's A&E

Queen Mary's A&E

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Thousands of patients have breached 18-week targets because an NHS Trust does not have the staff or capacity to cope with demand.

Figures obtained by the Times reveal that over 4,500 people exceeded the referral to hospital treatment time limit at South London Healthcare Trust within an eight month period, a significant increase on last year’s figures.

From January 2009 to December 2009 3,757 people went over the target. But from January to August this year, the latest figure available, the number had already increased to 4,563.

The government controversially scrapped the 18-week waiting times in June this year in a bid to cut paperwork.

Patients are still expected to be treated in this time but it will no longer be monitored.

London Health Emergency’s Dr John Lister said: “It’s very worrying that this is an upward trend and scrapping targets is not going to improve it. If they have less pressure on them the situation will get worse. This Trust is not resourced properly to deal with the level of demand it gets from people in Bromley, Bexley and Greenwich.

“If you withdraw the targets then some trusts will allow people to wait and wait. It costs it more to send their patients to a private provider so why should they do that when there is no target to meet?”

The figures, obtained in a Freedom of Information request, show that in just a four-month period from April 1 to July 31 this year, some 1,403 patients were dealt with by one of the Trust’s four private healthcare providers including the newly formed Rapid Surgical Solutions, based in Bickley.

A spokesperson for the Trust said: “Meeting the 18-week treatment time from referral requirement for surgery in some specialties has been challenging for the Trust recently and in order to be able to guarantee this for our patients, we have as is standard practice needed to increase our capacity by using appropriate external providers and also by increasing productivity and surgery time internally.”

Bromley Primary Care Trust has the option to fine the Trust for breaching its treatment targets. So far it has not billed the £240 million debt-ridden Trust.

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