By Lilian Anekwe
Nearly two thirds of GPs believe the coalition Government's decision to scrap the 18-week waiting time target for hospital treatment will lead to rising waiting times, a Pulse survey reveals.
Our poll of over 400 GPs found 63% felt that axing the 18-week referral-to-treatment target, which health secretary Andrew Lansley announced would be removed in June, will push up waiting times for outpatient appointments.
Nearly a quarter (22%) said they did not believe waiting times would be affected, while 15% were unsure.
The move away from NHS targets was signalled in the new NHS operating framework which instructed all NHS trusts to remove all performance management of the 18-week target, and signalled a sweeping rethink of referral management schemes.
It also ordered PCTs to stop scrutinising GP performance on 48-hour access targets and scaled back the four-hour A&E target, with the threshold of acceptability moved down from 98% to 95%.
Dr Mary Hawking, a GP in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, said: ‘The removal of the four hour and 18 week targets from hospitals will allow a return to the good old days of 18-month waits for hip replacements without any financial penalty for the hospitals.'
A DH spokesperson said they were committed to getting rid of arbitary targets in the NHS so that patients could receive treatment when it is 'clinically appriopriate'.
'Patients should not experience undue delay at any stage of their treatment and would not expect long waiting times for operations.
'The ongoing collection and publication of referral to treatment data will incentivise providers and commissioners to work together to keep clinically unjustified waits down,' she said.Two thirds of GPs feel fewer targets will raise waiting times