NHS Meets Key Commitments On Waiting And Progress On Tackling Infections
SummaryNHS staff (in England) are making excellent progress against two key priority areas - to reduce waiting times to 18 weeks and cut Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infections - statistics released today show.
Department of Health statistics for August show that nationally the NHS has met its commitment to ensure that 90% of patients who require admission to hospital and 95% of patients not needing admission, start treatment within 18 weeks of referral from their GP. This means that the operational standard has been met five months ahead of the end of December 2008 deadline.
The median referral to treatment time waited by patients who were admitted for treatment has come down from 18.8 weeks in March 2007 to 8 weeks in August this year and the median referral to treatment time waited by non-admitted patients has fallen from 7.4 weeks in August last year to 4.3 weeks in August this year. The number of patients waiting longer than six weeks for a diagnostic test has decreased by 97% since April 2006.
In addition, the latest Health Protection Agency quarterly figures (from April to June 2008) on C. difficile infections published today show a big drop in the key over-65 age group in which cases have dropped by 18% on the previous quarter and 38% since the same quarter in 2007. Overall, figures show a 21% decrease on the 2007/08 average and mean that the NHS is well on its way to delivering its target.
Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson said,
"Waiting times and infection rates are key priorities for the public and that's why the NHS is focusing its efforts in these areas. The figures published today are the result of the hard work and dedication of NHS staff and the right investment in resources.
"Twelve years ago it was common for patients to have to wait two years for an operation and in recent years, C. difficile infections were a significant challenge.
"Achieving our 18 Week commitment nationally five months early is great news for patients in England who can now expect much faster access to NHS care and it is immensely rewarding to see such a significant reduction in C. difficile following our investment in a comprehensive package of measures to drive down infections."
18 Weeks Patient Champion Neil Betteridge said:
"When the Department of Health first announced the programme with its ambitious objectives, organisations like Arthritis Care naturally wondered whether the welcome attempt to reduce waiting times might inadvertently jeopardise other aspects of care. However, both the statistical and anecdotal evidence shows that patients are not only pleased to be waiting less time, but are telling us their overall quality of care has in their view improved. It really is 'win-win' and shows that putting the user experience at the heart of service delivery delivers practical benefits."
There remain certain areas of the country and medical specialisms that have yet to achieve the 18 weeks commitment and the Department of Health will continue to work with the NHS to help all hospitals and Primary Care Trusts to achieve the target by the end of the year.
Reductions in C. difficile infections have been achieved by implementation of a package of measures including best practice clinical guidance and targeted support for those trusts who are most challenged. This is backed by substantial investment (£270 million a year by 2010/11) and the legal requirement for trusts to comply with the Hygiene Code. From April 2009 frontline staff, including the 5000 matrons we have now - more than double the number of last year - will also be able to report any concerns they have to the new regulator, the Care Quality Commission.