Wait 18 weeks or longer for treatment on the NHS and you'll get a private bed
Daniel Martin, Whitehall Correspondent
00:07 GMT, 4 July 2012
06:54 GMT, 4 July 2012
Tens of thousands of patients who face having to wait more than 18 weeks for NHS treatment will be offered a bed in a private hospital, under reforms to be unveiled by Andrew Lansley today.
The Health Secretary will make the announcement during the first annual ‘State of the NHS’ report to be delivered to the Commons.
Latest figures, from April 2012, show that 149,912 patients have been waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment.
New plan: Tens of thousands of patients who face having to wait more than 18 weeks for NHS treatment will be offered a bed in a private hospital, under reforms to be unveiled by Andrew Lansley today
For the first time, the NHS will be forced to tell patients who are likely to wait more than 18 weeks for a non-urgent procedure that they have the right to choose from a range of providers to get treated more quickly.
This could include another NHS trust, a private hospital or a service provided by a charity.
Patients are already able to demand a bed elsewhere under the NHS Constitution, but ministers say that in too many cases hospitals have not been informing patients about their rights.
The new rules, which will come into play next year following trial projects, will force them to do so. It is part of a series of 60 ‘outcome measures’ for the NHS, to be unveiled by Mr Lansley.
Aspiration: Andrew Lansley wants to offer patients an alternative hospital treatment
They include increasing the number of people who survive after being diagnosed with cancer, helping people recover more quickly after a medical emergency such as a stroke, and improving care for people with long-term conditions like dementia.
Last night the Health Secretary said: ‘In the last year the NHS has reduced the number of people waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment to a record low.
‘We want those waiting times to come down even further so we are asking the NHS to identify how best to offer patients who run the risk of waiting a long time an alternative hospital to get their treatment from.’
Unlike Labour’s targets, hospitals will not face financial penalties if they fail to meet the 60 new outcomes measures.
But if they significantly fail, they will be named and shamed by the chairman of the new NHS Commissioning Board.
Mr Lansley will also say that over the past year rates of the MRSA and C Diff superbugs have fallen. However, female life expectancy is among the worst in western Europe, while among men it is one of the best.
The report also shows that while the number of NHS doctors has risen by 2 per cent over the past year to 101,000, the number of nurses, midwives and health visitors has fallen by 0.3 per cent to 308,000.
And despite all the promises, the number of NHS managers has fallen by just 3.3 per cent to 36,100.
Although people are living longer than they used to, health inequality has got worse because the health of the well-off has improved more quickly than that of the poorest.
In 1992, the difference in female life expectancy between the richest and the poorest areas was 6.2 years. By 2009 that had risen to 10.7 years.
Among men, the gap has risen from 8.3 years to 11.5 years.