Headlines: December 1st, 1998

The Conservatives have accused the Government of hiding the true facts over waiting lists – ahead of latest figures on performance due this week.Labour has put a lot of effort, and pressure on NHS managers, to reduce waiting lists. The Conservatives say this has resulted in patients being made to wait longer before they see a specialist.

The period of measurement under most scrutiny is from the time a patient is diagnosed as needing an operation, to treatment. The Conservatives say that if the number of people waiting to see a specialist were added, the list would grow by quarter of a million.

Philip Hammond MP, Conservative Health Spokesman, said: “Frank Dobson’s trick has been to make patients wait longer to see a specialist. Until they have had an outpatient consultation, they are not counted in the official waiting list.

“Patients are now experiencing record delays to see a consultant to get onto the waiting list. The total number of patients waiting either for a specialist appointment after referral by their GPs, or for surgery after seeing a specialist, has risen steadily since the General Election and is continuing to rise.

“Surgeons up and down the country are being placed under intense pressure to meet Frank Dobson’s political targets for waiting list reductions. The only way they can do this is to spend more time in the operating theatre and less time in outpatient clinics. Patients are being pushed from one list to another.”