West Midlands GPs have revealed NHS patient waiting times are increasing along with restrictions to services, in a new damning poll.
Fertility services, weight loss surgery and orthopaedic treatments are the biggest victims of pressures on the NHS according to a survey of 500 GPs nationwide, including 56 in the region.
Three quarters of doctors in the West Midlands said they had experienced NHS restrictions for IVF and bariatric surgery, such as stomach stapling, and half said the same for orthopaedic care, in the poll by private healthcare company Spire Healthcare.
Lengthening waiting times for treatment were also highlighted with 40 per cent of local GPs seeing patients waiting longer for neurology appointments, more than a third for muscoskeletal illnesses and a quarter for heart surgery.
It coincides with a report claiming NHS waiting times have risen to the highest level in three years as financial strain on the healthcare system begins to show, according to health charity The King’s Fund.
The report revealed nearly 15 per cent of hospital inpatients waited more than 18 weeks for treatment in February and that there had been a steady increase in waiting times for hospital treatment since the Government relaxed the 18-week target in June last year.
A&E waiting times, of patients waiting more than four hours, have also peaked at the highest rate since 2004.
Professor John Appleby, chief economist at The King’s Fund, warned that hospitals no longer have a target for waiting times in place but instead “a vague commitment”.
“With hospital waiting times rising, the NHS faces a considerable challenge in maintaining performance as the financial squeeze begins to bite,” said Prof Appleby.
A panel of 26 NHS finance directors were interviewed and more than two thirds warned they would be unlikely to meet productivity targets this year.
Reducing workforce or capacity were the most widely mentioned approach by 20 respondents and 12 suggested ward closures and reduced services.
David Flory, deputy chief executive of the NHS, said: “This particular snapshot shows the NHS must maintain its focus on waiting times.
“The NHS treats millions of people every month, and as a result waiting times go up and they go down but average waiting times remain broadly stable.
“Clinicians told us focussing solely on time spent in A&E distorted clinical decision making. That is why we lowered the threshold for the four hour waiting time standard and replaced it with a range of indicators to measure quality. We would expect more people to wait slightly longer, but vitally to get a better quality of care, and improved experience.”
He added that The King’s Fund was using data that does not take account patients who decline two reasonable offers of admission.