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Are NHS waiting lists compromising our health?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This year, more than ever before, it seems that there is pressure being placed upon the National Health Service to achieve more with less. With the recent move by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to axe NHS waiting list targets, the service look set to be undermined as patients are forced to wait for longer and longer periods in order to access basic healthcare needs such as diagnostic tests and treatments. The two primary targets cut by the coalition government include the 18-week target for treatment between referral and resolution, and the right for NHS patients across the UK to see a GP within 48 hours of requesting an appointment.

These changes are making a large percentage of people across the UK seek out the benefits of Private Health Insurance policies, in order to safeguard their right to have good access to medical treatment as and when they require it. As the shadow health secretary, John Healey recently commented: “Private healthcare providers know Tory governments are good for business”. This rather cynical comment shows that the politicians directly involved in the NHS reforms are aware that more people will be feeling insecure about the service’s ability to deliver a strong service to those who need it most.

In a recent discussion about the NHS shake-up taking place, Prime Minister David Cameron declined to make any commitment to reducing waiting lists across the NHS. While the government are undertaking almost one and a half billion pounds on the NHS reforms, making almost one billion pounds of redundancies, it is obvious that reduced waiting lists are not a priority. Withdrawn treatments and ever-expanding waiting lists mean that a number of patients’ health will be compromised, as the NHS is forced to make cuts wherever possible, in order to reach ever-stricter budgetary targets.

The Labour government under Clement Attlee established the National Health Service in 1948. Since that time, the service has become one of the nation’s most valued and cherished services. However, the new government’s priorities are focussing upon budgetary cuts, as opposed to the reduced waiting lists and enhanced treatment options which the previous Labour government were seeking to implement. Initiatives which Labour implemented such as a guarantee on cancer treatment have now been scrapped, leaving the UK lagging behind when it comes to cancer detection survival rates, when compared with the rest of Europe.

All of these factors mean that our NHS may be under threat, and waiting lists are set to increase greatly over the next few months. As John Healey suggested, there has never been a more relevant time for UK residents to consider switching to Private Medical Insurance in order to secure the treatment which they both need, and deserve.

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