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NHS Waiting time drive halted in bid to reduce costs

The NHS is limiting access to hospital care and halting a reduction in waiting times in order to contain costs, the NHS Confederation has confirmed.

However, the organisation's network of primary care trust (PCT) providers denies that local NHS managers are deliberately blocking competition for provision of services or inappropriately denying patients a choice of provider.

In a response to a report by the Coooperation and Competition Panel, which claimed that the NHS was restricting patient choice, the network argues that the actions of PCTs are not inconsistent with the rules on competition, which state that placing restrictions on choice and competition is sometimes justifiable when this is not against the interests of patients and tax-payers.

"A number have reluctantly decided to temporarily reduce activity levels this year to help contain costs, by asking providers to extend (or not further reduce) their waiting times (while keeping them within the constitutionally required 18 weeks) or imposing in-year caps on (in effect deferring) activity," the response states. "...But they appear to be applying any waiting time and referral criteria to all providers equally."

PCTs are under severe financial pressure to deliver cost savings at the moment, which has seen some restrict access to certain treatments and increased the need to source the most cost-effective care from providers.

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