When I was referred for an MRI scan the two weeks wait was an anxious time. Even that seemed a cosiderable increase over the waiting times in force when I was chairing a NHS Foundation Trust hospital. I have since learned from Bill, a fellow chicken-keeper, that his brother who lives in Hastings has been waiting for six weeks. At first the news didn’t make sense because in my day (as fogies love to remark) we were summoned to London to explain even one target ‘breach’, and we used to travel in some trepidation. At that time, just a couple of years ago, every patient referred to us had to be in full treatment within 18 weeks, which meant that he or she had to be seen almost immediately after a GP referral was received and any required tests had to be dealt at once. Of course the tight timescale made life difficult for clinicians and managers alike, but at least all those suspected of having cancer were spared the stress of uncertainty and the clinical risks associated with delays.
It was only during the chat with Bill that I was reminded that Andrew Lansley’s first act on becoming health secretary was to abolish waiting lists. At the same time he imposed massive cuts to funding and it doesn’t surprise me one jot that hospital Trusts up and down the land found some of the savings by extending their waiting times. One of the first savings would be the amount of hours having to be worked on MRI scans.
Realising that Bill’s information could be dismissed as hearsay I did some checking of my own. Hastings, the home of his brother, had only 3 patients waiting in excess of the permitted waiting times in April 2010. In April 2011 it had 1255, an amazing increase of 41,733%. So Bill’s brother is just one of many worried sick about their referral. Checking the figures of other Trusts revealed a similar pattern. In Leeds for example, there were only 10 waiting at the end of 2010, the total for this year was 878. Lansley, take a bow!
Across the country the waiting times for cancer testing and treatment have at least trebled and the situation is worsening during the first months of this financial year. Amazingly all the focus on Lansley has centered o his bizarre plans for reform. Fortunately these seem to be heading for the scrapheap not least because Cameron has ruled that GP commissioning will only start when GPs are ready, at which point their commissioning body will include nurses, hospital doctors and patients. In other words Primary Care Trusts are being reinstated under a new name and costs of around £2billion have been incurred.
But all this is meaningless mumbo-jumbo with political point-scoring at the top of the agenda. The point is that massive damage has already been done and without question people who could have been saved will die as vital post-diagnoses weeks are lost.
This is too importat for childish arguments about the respective abilities of Labour and Conservatives. NHS people will tell you that they are both hopeless. Labour imposed 400 targets which was ludicrous, the Conservatives have scrapped the wrong ones which was equally ludicrous.
Our health is uniquely important and we should all worry that a blundering fool like Lansley is in charge. At the very least the minister should be a senior clinician with no political bias.
Unrealistic? If we settle for that we settle for disaster, we betray every individual whose life depends on a rapid response!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; FAMILY PLANNING; “Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped”…..Sam Levenson ”Let me tell you a terrific story about oral contraception. I asked a girl to sleep with me and she said “No”……….Woody Allen “”I have 13 children. It’s not a burden. I love my husband” – “Lady, I love my cigar, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while”……Groucho Marx “I’m Catholic. When my mum found my diaphragm, I had to tell her it was a bathing cap for my cat”…….Lizz Winstead ”Condoms aren’t completely safe. A friend was wearing one and got hit by a bus”……..Rob Rubin “A friend of mine confused her Valium with her birth control pills. She had 14 kids but didn’t give a toss”……Joan Rivers “I practice birth control, which is being around my brother’s children”……Brett Butler