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NHS failing to hit key performance targets

THE NHS is failing to hit most of its key performance targets in England, including for cancer treatment, despite a fall overall in waiting lists, the latest official figures revealed today.

New data from NHS England shows that while the number of treatments waiting to be carried out dropped for a second month in November, 11,168 people waited more than 18 months to start routine hospital treatment, up from 10,506 at the end of October.

The government and NHS England had planned to eliminate all waits of more than 18 months by April 2023, excluding exceptionally complex cases.

A&E waits also worsened, the data showed, with 69.4 per cent of patients in England seen within four hours in December, down from 69.7 per cent in November and against a target set for March this year of 76 per cent.

Cancer targets were still being missed, with 71.9 per cent of patients urgently referred for suspected cancer in November being diagnosed or having cancer ruled out within 28 days.

This was up from 71.1 per cent the previous month, but below the target of 75 per cent.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins praised the overall fall in the waiting list and blamed industrial action for hindering progress.

But Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen said the government “only has itself to blame.”

She said: “It’s been over a year since the Prime Minister [Rishi Sunak] pledged to bring down the waiting list, yet it remains 400,000 higher than when he made his promise.  

“The Prime Minister can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes by claiming it is down to strike action.

“He needs to start listening to nursing staff who have been calling for investment in the workforce, including fair pay.”

Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan told the Star: “The A&E four-hour target has not been met since July 2015, and hundreds are dying each week from delayed admission and treatment.

“These figures represent real people and cannot be disguised by sound bites about record funding or ending two-year waits.

“The reality is patients can’t easily get to see their GP, can’t find an NHS dentist or get prompt cancer care and it is this government that has failed them.” 

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting called the figures “concerning” and hit out at Mr Sunak for failing to keep his promise.

NHS Providers chief executive Sir Julian Hartley said that while progress on key targets has slipped, “NHS leaders still aim to meet these by the end of March.”

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