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Waiting times now up by a quarter

By Lilian Anekwe

The proportion of people who fail to receive treatment at hospital outpatient clinics within 18 weeks of referral has risen by more than a quarter since the Government abandoned its target last summer, new figures show.

A Pulse analysis last month revealed that waiting times had jumped since ministers abandoned performance management of the 18-week referral-to-treatment target, which had been strictly enforced until last June. The latest figures published show hospital waits increased further from September to November last year.

Since July, the proportion of non-admitted patients who missed the target has risen from 1.9% to 2.4%, with 22,078 non-admitted patients missing out in November.

The proportion of admitted patients who did not receive treatment within 18 weeks has risen by a fifth – from 6.7% to 8% – with 23,826 missing out.

DH figures published this month showed the number of people waiting more than the previous target of six weeks for diagnostic tests rose by more than 90% compared with the same period last year.

In November, 5,700 patients waited more than six weeks for diagnostic tests, compared with just 3,109 in June and 2,900 in November 2009.

But Prime Minister David Cameron last week defended the move to stop performance managing targets.

‘We will not be able to get waiting times down and improve our public health in this country unless we cut bureaucracy in the NHS,' he said.

Waiting times are now up by a quarter