Headlines: August 28th, 1998

There’s been a general welcome for new figures demonstrating a reduction in NHS waiting lists, but a call for the current purge on the problem not to
overshadow other important indicators of performance.

Stephen Thornton from the NHS Confederation said:”There is no doubt that
managers are under immense pressure to manage the waiting lists and deliver on
the demanding targets set by Mr Dobson. We should now be talking about
patients’ whole experience of waiting for treatment especially the wait for the
first outpatient appointment, and we look forward to government monitoring of
the NHS on this basis.

“It is also vital that action on waiting times should not cause trusts and
health authorities to lose focus on other important priorities that they face
every day. Improving cancer services, mental health and emergency admissions
all need our attention.”

The number of people on NHS hospital waiting lists in England fell between
April and July 1998 by more than 45,000. The number of people on waiting lists has fallen for each of the past three months, after a rise in April.

Karen Caines, Director of the Institute of Health Service Managers, said: ‘It
has taken a vast amount of money and effort to find the additional staff,
additional equipment and additional operating theatres. A key challenge for the
government and the NHS is to keep waiting lists – or more importantly waiting
times – down over the long run without distorting priorities, rationing NHS
services or bringing already overburdened NHS staff to their knees. The recent
intensity of work demanding long hours cannot be sustained indefinitely.”