Fewer than half of NHS Trusts are meeting targets for carrying out elective care within 18 weeks of referral, and only 38% are offering cancer treatment within the required 62 days, according to the latest report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

The NHS is treating more people for suspected cancer and elective care than ever before.  However, MPs sitting on the PAC have reported that cancer patients in three-fifths of NHS trusts in England are waiting too long for treatment.

The number of patients referred for elective care has increased by 17% since 2012-14 and those referred for suspected cancer had almost doubled since 2010-11. However, the waiting list for elective care has grown to 4.2 million patients.

The report calls for the government and NHS England to “regain control” over what it described as “unacceptable” waiting lists.

It said: “The NHS is failing to meet key waiting times standards for cancer and elective care, and its performance continues to decline. The NHS has not met the 18-week waiting times standard for elective care since February 2016. Substantial improvement is clearly needed.”

The Committee also reported that bottlenecks in hospital capacity are having a “detrimental impact” on how long patients wait for treatment, with wide variations in performance against waiting times standards across local areas and hospitals.

The Committee reported: “The proportion of patients waiting less than 18 weeks for their elective care varied between 75% and 96% across CCGs in England in 2017–18. Poorer performance in waiting times is related to bottlenecks in hospital capacity, including diagnostics and bed occupancy.”

MPs also accused health bodies of “a lack of curiosity” about the causes, and the risks that patients would come to harm as result of the increasingly long waiting times.

Commenting on the Committee’s report, David Cole, Chief Executive of Vanguard Healthcare Solutions, said: “Our colleagues in the NHS are under increasing pressure to deliver more and more services year on year while maintaining the excellent standards of patient treatment and care the NHS is undoubtedly known for.

“There are challenges around having a sufficient workforce, a fit-for-purpose estate and facilities to deliver these numbers of procedures and services and the required levels of capital investment to deliver both.

“While the Committee’s findings may not be surprising, it is clear these challenges will not be easily solved and will require innovative solutions in a number of different areas, not least infrastructure and staffing, to ensure patient experience is not compromised.”

The report comes just days after the Government’s own adviser on NHS estates, Sir Robert Naylor, criticised the use of cash intended for capital investment in the NHS’s buildings and facilities to fund part of the first year of the Government’s five-year increased funding deal.

When the Government announced the five-year revenue settlement in 2018, it was said the average 3.4 per cent annual increase to NHS England’s budget would come from increased government funding.

However, HSJ reported that £221m of this year’s £6bn cash increase would come from funds that had already been earmarked for building and maintenance, a move criticised by Sir Naylor who told HSJ: “This will just make matters worse. We simply have to stop doing this because we’ve been starving the NHS of capital funding for decades.”

The full article can be read here: https://www.hsj.co.uk/finance-and-efficiency/exclusive-naylor-criticises-new-raid-on-nhs-capital-budgets/7025259.article