NHS extends testing of non-urgent care waiting times target changes

Read our response to the news that the testing of changes to the maximum waiting times for non-urgent treatment will be extended.
NHS England’s update today is a very welcome move and shows that they are taking the feedback from patients and their organisations seriously

About the review of waiting time targets

If you are referred for specialist non-urgent treatment, you currently should expect to be treated within a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks.

Over the last year, the NHS has been reviewing this 18-week target. The waiting time starts once a hospital gets a referral from someone's GP or other community health professional.

The review also covers other targets the NHS uses to assess how well services across the country are performing. These include the amount of time patients spend in A&E, access to mental health services and diagnosis and treatment for cancer.

Healthwatch England has been supporting the review by feeding in the views and experiences of patients, with particular focus on sharing evidence we have gathered in A&E and from people on the waiting for elective care under the current 18-week referral to treatment target.

Testing extended

At today’s NHS England board meeting they have announced plans to extend the testing period for proposed changes to the 18-week elective care measure into 2020/21.

In a collective response to this announcement we have issued the following joint statement with the other patient and user groups* feeding into the review:

“We welcome NHS England’s decision today to give more time to its review of waiting times for elective care. It has been encouraging to see how NHS England’s review aimed to focus on improving people’s experiences, but in our mind, there were always questions over the timelines for looking at such a complex issue.

“The 18-week target covers a wide range of conditions with clinical outcomes and experiences affected differently by the length of time people wait. Issues such as good shared decision making, better information and ongoing support during waits also affect the experiences of people needing treatment. This is why we need more time to assess the impact of any changes to the target on people waiting for treatment.

“NHS England’s update today, is therefore, a very welcome move and shows that they are taking the feedback from patients and their organisations seriously. We look forward to continuing our work with NHS England to ensure the review comes to the right decision by 2021.”

This joint statement was issued by National Voices, The Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance, Versus Arthritis, the MS Society, the Neurological Alliance and Healthwatch England.

Further information

Further information can be found by visiting the NHS England website.

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