NHS boss unable to say what boy, 4, should do amid 70-week waiting list


The boss of the NHS was today unable to say what a four-year-old boy with a potential 70-week wait for treatment should do.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, appeared on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme and was told about a viewer, Stephen from Harrow, whose son is on a waiting list between 50 and 70 weeks long.
His only alternative for quicker treatment is to go private and pay £3,000 – money he doesn’t have.
Asked three times by Kuenssberg what her advice to Stephen would be, Pritchard couldn’t answer the question.
She first said: “I absolutely get the frustration, and as I say, I’m also a patient. My own family are undergoing different treatment for different things and experiencing waiting on the other side.

Criticism and Public Outcry

What I would reassure people is this isn’t an overnight fix. Still, we are – and I speak for all my colleagues in the health service – working tirelessly to make sure that what we have done, which is set out the most ambitious recovery plan in our history, we are continuing to deliver.”
Asked if Stephen should “scrape to try and find £3,000” or wait for a year, Pritchard only said, “Children and young people is an area of particular focus for us; we know the pandemic hit kids badly….”
Asked again what Stephen should do now, Pritchard only said: “We are focusing on children and young people. It’s a particular focus area [to] bring down waits overall, so I am sorry to hear about that particular example. But we are already making big progress in reducing the longest waits.”
It comes a week after Rishi Sunak conceded on the same programme “it will take time” for the overall NHS waiting list to come down.

Sunak, who has made reducing waiting times one of his five priorities, told Kuenssberg: “It’s because we’ve had a pandemic; the backlog that ensued was always going to take some time to work through.”
The number of people standing by for routine hospital treatment has gushed to another all-time high. NHS figures revealed today amid warnings that upcoming strikes will cause even more chaos in the crippled service.
More than 7.2 million instances in England were stuck in the backlog in October — or one in eight people. Over 400,000 have queued, often in pain, for at least one year.
A&E pressures have also worsened, with a third of emergency department attendees not seen within four hours — the NHS’s worst-ever performance. Thousands weren’t even seen after waiting in casualty for 12 hours.

The Need for Increased Funding and Resources

More than 184,000 patients in England are stand by three months or longer for crucial diagnostic tests as clinicians warn some NHS services are “close to failure”.
Patients should only wait up to six weeks for tests under the rules of the health service’s constitution.
But children in some specialist hospitals are waiting longer than this, with doctors and radiographers warning they are already working at “over capacity”.
Medics warn that clearing the backlog in CT and MRI scans alone would require a 10 per cent rise in staff numbers.
According to an analysis of October’s waiting times for diagnostic tests by The Observer, more than half of all patients referred for tests had been waiting six weeks or longer at some of England’s biggest trusts.
The NHS aims for fewer than 1 per cent of patients to wait six weeks or longer.
At the end of October 2022, 426,003 patients had been waiting six weeks or more in England for 15 critical diagnostic tests and procedures, 27.5 per cent of the total patients waiting. The figures also show that the number of patients waiting 13 weeks or longer was 184,187.

Public Trust and Confidence in the NHS

NHS medics carry out more than 2 million diagnostic procedures in England monthly for various purposes, including diagnosing cancer, identifying heart disease and establishing the extent of musculoskeletal injuries.
A briefing published last month by the Imaging and Oncology Forum, which includes the Society of Radiographers and the Royal College of Radiologists, warned that diagnostic imaging services were being “brought close to failure”.
Dr Katharine Halliday, head of state of the Royal College of Radiologists, said the data is “concerning but not surprising”.

The Case of the Four-Year-Old Boy

“We have known for some time that scarcity in the diagnostic workforce is a core driver backing the NHS’s slow recovery from Covid-19 and are limiting our volume to give safe and effective care,” she said.
“Today’s statistics are yet more proof of that. NHS staff have been working over volume for years, but there need to be more of us. To clear the logjam of patients waiting for CT and MRI studies within a month, the NHS in England would have to hire 390 radiology consultants, the equivalent of a 10 per cent increase in the live workforce.
“We’ve had years of underinvestment in the NHS staff, so we aspiration the government will soon print a fully-funded workforce plan, which would reassure cases and doctors that this logjam can be tackled, prey can be met, and patients can be diagnosed in the logjam possible time.”

About the author

Olivia Wilson

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