The White Paper, Equity and excellence: liberating the NHS, sets out a significant set of reforms for the NHS over the coming years. As we do with all new major policy developments, The King's Fund will follow the evolution and implementation of these changes and assess their impact. As part of this evaluation we will collate and comment on key aspects of NHS performance, starting with hospital waiting times.
March 2011: right for this time of year?
The latest 18-week referral to treatment waiting times data for March 2011 are shown in the figures below.
Latest median waiting times for all parts of the referral to treatment pathway are more or less in line with seasonal trends, with a sharp fall for those admitted as inpatients, a small rise for those seen in outpatients and no change for those still on a waiting list.
There is less of a seasonal pattern for the proportion of patients waiting more than 18 weeks, and while March showed improvement over February for all three aspects of waiting, the broad trend since last June remains upward.
Pre and post-June 2010 trends for outpatient waiting more than 18 weeks
The figure below illustrates pre- and post-June 2010 trends for outpatient waits more than 18 weeks. Similar trends are evident for inpatients and those still waiting.
Although the proportion of patients who waited more than 18 weeks is down for outpatient and inpatient waiting, because of increased admissions and attendances, the absolute numbers are higher in March than February.