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Wales has worst waiting times for NHS tests in UK

Wales has the worst waiting times record for life-saving tests in the UK, according to new figures.

Wales has the worst waiting times record for life-saving tests. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Around 42% of people in Wales waiting for diagnostic tests had to wait more than six weeks before they were finally seen, according to government statistics.

This compares with 1.8% in England and 3.8% in Scotland.

And the statistics also show 16.6% of patients on the Welsh diagnostic waiting list wait longer than 12 weeks.

In Northern Ireland, 15.5% on the list had to wait more than nine weeks.

BMA: Doctors working harder than ever before

The chair of the British Medical Association said many of the criticisms made by one of Britain's most senior doctors will ring true with NHS workers.

Read: Patients 'at risk' from overworked doctors

Dr Mark Porter said:

Many of Sir Richard’s comments will be recognised by those working in the NHS. Doctors are working harder than ever before as all NHS services come under enormous pressure from a combination of rising workload, falling resources and staff shortages in key specialities.

The Government continues to claim that the health budget is being protected, yet in reality billions of pounds are being clawed back by the Treasury each year, while the target of reducing the budget by £20 billion has so far been done on the backs of NHS staff through year-on-year pay cuts and without any sustainable plan from the Government.

Read: Doctors caring for up to 70 patients is 'destructive'

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Department of Health hits back at staffing claims

The Department of Health hit back at criticism from the president of the Royal College of Physicians.

Read: Patients 'at risk from overworked doctors'

Responding to claims that doctors were looking after so many patients they are missing vital signs, the Department of Health said levels of clinical staff working in the NHS are the highest since records started.

Patient safety and care is a priority for the Government and it is right that we have high expectations for our NHS.

We now have the highest ever number of professionally qualified clinical staff since census records began, and Health Education England is working on how to recruit more.

While the NHS is one of the safest, most efficient healthcare systems in the world we should never shy away from trying to improve standards for patients.

More: Doctors caring for up to 70 patients is 'destructive'

Doctors caring for up to 70 patients is 'destructive'

A leading health expert has warned that doctors have too many patients to look after on one shift, putting those in their care at risk as they fail to spot vital symptoms.

Sir Richard Thompson told the Guardian that some doctors are facing caseloads during one shift of up to 70 patients, many with simultaneous conditions.

You try standing on your feet for seven hours trying to be on the ball, thinking of the various complications, being nice to patients, for seven hours. It's absolutely destructive.

Not everyone has 70 [patients], but most people are looking after well over 20 ...If you've got over 20 it becomes impossible. The care gets thinner and thinner.

It means the consultant can't see the patient as much or indeed as early as they should do, so obviously the standard of care is going to fall.

– Sir Richard Thompson, President of the Royal College of Physicians

Patients 'at risk' from overworked doctors, expert warns

NHS doctors are looking after so many patients they are missing vital signs of illness, an expert has warned.

An expert has warned that patients are under threat from overworked doctors missing vital signs Credit: PA

In an interview with The Guardian, Sir Richard Thompson, one of Britain's most senior doctors, attacked ministers over NHS budget cuts that he says are threatening patient care, as doctors under constant "strain and stress" are missing symptoms.

He said hospital doctors are trying to look after up to 70 elderly patients at a time, when 20 is the maximum number regarded as necessary to ensure they receive the ideal minimum of 15 minutes with each patient.

Systems 'rub against each other like fractured bones'

The current systems rub up against each other like bones in an open fracture.

The lack of alignment between them leads to serious problems of co-ordination, with the NHS and local authorities battling over who should pay for what, and patients, service users and their families left confused and bewildered. This is not sustainable - we need a new settlement fit for the 21st century.

This necessitates making choices about how to pay for a better system - hard choices that we must look squarely in the eye.

– Kate Barker, Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England

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'Hard choices need to be made' to increase NHS funding

The report points to "hard choices" that must be looked at "squarely in the eye", with several possible ways of increasing revenue and resources - and suggests a combination of all of them is likely.

Some ways are either a rise in taxation or new and/or higher patient charges, and an acknowledgement "that all pensioners are no longer poor pensioners", the report suggested:

  • Prescription charges and the cost of pre-payment certificates could rise while those currently exempt from charges - such as pregnant women and those on maternity leave - could have their entitlements scrapped
  • The blanket exemption from prescription charges for those aged over 60 could be removed
  • Extending charges for dentistry or fee for visiting the GP - say £5 to £25
  • Outpatients could be charged £10 for hospital appointments while those who fail to turn up could also be charged as a penalty
  • Costs for hospital stays or hospital treatment may also be considered

The report also said winter fuel allowance and free TV licences for the over-75s could also be reconsidered, with the money diverted into health and social care.

Free bus passes and concessionary travel cost around £1 billion in 2010/11.

'More NHS patient charges' may be needed

Further NHS patient charges may need to introduced, a report has said.

The current health and social care systems are no longer fit for purpose while funding needs an overhaul, the Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England said.

More NHS patient charges may be needed
More NHS patient charges may be needed Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

The report said that in addition to more charges or increasing general taxation an acknowledgement that not all pensioners are "poor" would be needed.

Increasing general taxation or introducing more charges - such as for treatment or hospital stays, or cutting freebies such as elderly bus passes and prescriptions - all need to be considered, it said.

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