The latest monthly figures that report on treatment waiting times in the NHS demonstrate that key targets for cancer, hospital care and A&E continue to be missed and have not been met since at least 2016. More worryingly, waiting times in these critical areas are becoming longer. According to the most recent figures:
The delays have been blamed on huge demand on patient services, lack of trained medical staff, as well as under-funding. The Prime Minister announced in June 2019 that NHS England would receive a funding increase of £20.5 billion by 2023/2024 – in effect a 3.4% increase in spending per year from 2019/2020.
The implications of longer waiting times are most worrying for patients, some of whom subsequently instruct lawyers to investigate claims relating to negligent treatment.
One recent example of a claim referred to the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper involved a delay in a client receiving treatment for his diagnosed prostate cancer. Following diagnosis, he was advised that his cancer was treatable with surgery alone. There was then an excessive delay between subsequent investigations and treatment. During that interim period the cancer grew and spread. By the time he underwent treatment, it was discovered that his cancer was not treatable only with surgery, but that he also required chemotherapy, following which he suffered a number of common side effects. Had it not been for the delays in his treatment, surgery would have been sufficient to remove his cancer and he would have been spared the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy.
Arran Macleod, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team, said: “It is worrying to read about the worsening waiting times that patients are experiencing in the NHS. We often hear about these delays from patients first hand, many of whom are anxious and worried about what the delay might mean for them. Sometimes the delays are not inconsequential; they can cause patients real harm and affect their long term prognosis. As clinical negligence specialists, we support measures to improve NHS waiting-times to enhance patient safety.”