The BMA yesterday accused Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of rationing health care.
Hunt has announced a £250m drive to eliminate ‘unacceptable’ 12-month waits, with more than 100,000 additional treatments to take place in the NHS over the summer.
He is demanding the NHS prioritise treatment for people who have been waiting more than 18 weeks, including 40,000 patients who will be admitted to hospital, and he has ordered a casework review of every patient waiting close to or more than 52 weeks.
Hunt acknowledged that treating the ‘long waiters’ who often need more complex procedures, would mean a ‘managed breach’ of the NHS 18-week waiting-time targets over the coming months.
Responding to Hunt’s proposals, Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council, said: ‘It is right to prioritise patients who have had to wait the longest for treatment, but this announcement tries to wash over the fact that more patients will have to wait longer for an operation because the government, in effect, is having to ration care.
‘This is yet more evidence that the NHS is buckling under extreme pressure and that patient care is being compromised.
‘Crucially, Jeremy Hunt needs to make clear if the funding he has announced is additional money, or, as has been the case with previous announcements, merely recycled funds taken from where it is needed elsewhere in the NHS budget to plug a gap.
‘Front-line staff are working harder than ever to meet rising demand, but investment is falling far short of what is needed.
‘The NHS is lurching from one missed target to another with the government failing to get to grips with the root of the problem.
‘Demand on the NHS is rising, staff and services are stretched to breaking point and workloads are becoming unmanageable.
‘Politicians have to face up to reality – we need a long term solution to the £30bn funding gap in the NHS budget.
‘Without it, more targets will be missed, the quality of patient care will be compromised and, ultimately, the future of the NHS as we know it will be under threat.’