Whatever happens within the NHS, one thing certainly remains a hot topic…treatment waiting lists; how long are, who gets priority and what we can do (if anything) to reduce them.
Lengthy waiting lists within the NHS are a result of three modern day circumstances: 1) our rapidly growing population, 2) the fact that we’re all living a lot longer and 3) the increase in the number of people needing treatment for multiple, coexisting and often lifestyle-related conditions (comorbidities). So are increasingly long waiting lists an inevitable fact we have to accept? Or could there be another solution?
No matter what your personal opinion is on the NHS, it can’t be denied that the whole concept of free healthcare for all is a great one. We fare pretty well in comparison with the healthcare systems of other countries too; in a study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund in 2010, the NHS was deemed to be the best system in terms of efficiency, effective care and cost-related problems when compared to Australia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand and USA In addition, in 2012 the Care Quality Commission inpatient satisfaction survey revealed that 81% of over 60,000 respondents rated their overall experience as 7 out of 10 or higher. However, the continual squeeze on NHS budgets means the challenge of maintaining national standards is harder than ever.
Statistics on NHS Consultant-led Referral to Treatment (RTT) waiting times are published monthly by NHS England and are supplied by almost all hospitals. The latest report highlights the figures for January 2014 and, at a glance, the results seem promising:
- During January, 90.4% of admitted patients and 96.3% of non-admitted patients started treatment within 18 weeks.
- The average (median) time waited for patients completing an RTT pathway in January 2014 was 9.4 weeks for admitted patients and 5.8 weeks for non-admitted patients. For patients waiting to start treatment at the end of January 2014 the median waiting time was 6.2 weeks.
Now, although these numbers may sound reasonable, overall 2.9 million patients were waiting for treatment in January 2014 which is up by 362,000 from the 2.538 million seen in the same month in 2013. In addition, 45,000 more patients were not treated within 18 weeks, compared to January in the previous year.
What’s more, these figures do not take into consideration the time taken from getting your first GP appointment to receiving a referral and seeing your specialist. This in itself can drag on and extend your overall time on the treatment pathway significantly.
The obvious way to combat waiting lists is to opt for private care. But the high cost of doing so means that this is simply not an option for many of us, so is there another way? Well a new concept in healthcare delivery is now giving NHS patients the opportunity to bypass the GP referral stage of the treatment pathway completely, which could mean huge reductions in waiting time. The service, called ‘as.one’, is membership only but, unlike insurance policies or cash plans, it is open to all, regardless of age or health status. Members pay a small yearly fee (which can be spread out over monthly payments if preferred) and gain access to some of the UK’s top consultants, whenever they need them. To find out more visit www.betterasone.co.uk
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