Thursday, August 10, 2006

Universal Waiting Time

Health care is not something I normally write much about, mainly because I think a lot of people who do really aren't qualified to do so. It's one of those political issues that isn't just not black and white, it's full technicolor.

London's Telegraph provides another example of why this is true:
Hospitals across the country are imposing minimum waiting times - delaying the treatment of thousands of patients.

After years of Government targets pushing them to cut waiting lists, staff are now being warned against "over-performing" by treating patients too quickly. The Sunday Telegraph has learned that at least six trusts have imposed the minimum times.

In March, Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Health, offered her apparent blessing for the minimum waiting times by announcing they would be "appropriate" in some cases. Amid fears about £1.27 billion of NHS debts, she expressed concern that some hospitals were so productive "they actually got ahead of what the NHS could afford".

The minimum waiting times, however, dismayed Katherine Murphy, of the Patients' Association, who said last night: "This all stems from bad financial planning and management. No wonder there is a crisis. If staff are available for an operation, they should be utilised."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, added that the minimum waiting times shed new light on the Government's target that patients should wait no longer than six months. "It is outrageous that the purpose of the Government's targets is not so much to drive down waiting times, as to impose a six-month wait."