The NHS Crisis: Treatment Delays

29th November 2018 Clinical Negligence

A recent BBC analysis revealed that one in five local hospital services are consistently failing to meet their key waiting time targets.

Waits for accident and emergency, cancer care and routine operations are increasing across the UK. In 2012-13, England hit 86% of its key waiting time targets. This is in stark contrast to the current 2017-18 statics which reveal that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have failed to hit any of the three targets for more than a year.

These worrying, albeit inevitable, statistics reflect the reality that the NHS is under severe pressure. Whilst rising numbers of patients need hospital care, the NHS’ widespread staffing issues mean that patients are often left waiting longer for treatment. With frequent ward closures (including the recent closures of cancer care units) some patients are not only experiencing a delay in treatment, but are now also forced to travel further in order to receive care.

An understaffed work place undoubtedly leads to a high pressure environment for both staff and patients. This is reflected within recent figures which show that employees of trusts that fail to meet NHS-wide treatment targets are more likely to be attacked. Notably, reported attacks on health workers within A&E departments were up a shocking 21% in 2016-17. Naturally, a hostile working environment has a knock-on effect with retention rates, consequently aggravating staff shortages further.

Although the staffing crisis is a key factor contributing to the current delays in treatment, bed and equipment shortages also play a role. The NHS does not have the level of resources required to treat its growing number of patients. By way of illustration, the UK has just 2.6 hospital beds for every 1,000 people, considerably lower than a number of its European counterparts.

The NHS is undoubtedly underfunded. Back in the summer, Theresa May announced that, beginning in 2019/20, NHS England-s budget would increase by £20.5bn by 2023. NHS England’s forthcoming 10-year plan will provide a breakdown of how this budget is to be spent along with an outline of any changes to its waiting time targets. Nevertheless, some argue that although an increased budget could see more beds and equipment in hospitals, this large injection of cash may not provide a straightforward solution to the staffing crisis as there are simply less people choosing to enrol on health-related courses. In order for this increased budget to have true impact on current staffing shortages, it should therefore lead to and/or be accompanied by an increased number of training places and bursaries available for health workers.

Everyday our specialist team at JMW deal with clients who have experienced a delay in treatment. If you have suffered an unnecessary delay, the expert clinical negligence solicitors at JMW are here to help.



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Danisha Jackson is a Paralegal located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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