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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 06:11 GMT
NHS report claims improvements
Surgery
The report will look at how long patients wait for treatment
The health service is performing well, and on course to meet key waiting time targets, an NHS report claims.

The NHS Chief Executive, Sir Nigel Crisp, revealed a rise in day case surgery and a fall in hospital waiting times in his six-month progress report.

He said many more patients were being treated without being admitted to hospital.

But critics say the extra millions being pumped into the NHS by the government are not having an impact.

We are relying on short term, stopgap solutions
Tim Yeo, Shadow Health and Education Secretary
The Audit Commission, in a report earlier this year said government targets were leading to "quick fix" solutions which would not improve patient care in the long term.

And a report from the Centre for Policy Studies this week criticises the government for increasing the numbers of managers in the NHS.

It says the number of senior managers employed by the health service increased by 48% between 1995 and 2001, but the number of nurses employed only increased by just under 8%.

Criticisms

The NHS report, launched on Wednesday, claims that the NHS has been consistently improving over the last three years.

Figures for the numbers of people being seen in hospital have in the past shown only modest rises.

But the government says increasing numbers of patients are being treated in the community.

It says outpatient procedures increased by 15% between April and September.

Key statistics
Day case surgery - up 14.9%
Inpatient waits (6 months) - down 28.5%
Outpatient waits (13 weeks) - down 38%

There has also been a decrease in the number of patients waiting more than six months for inpatient operations.

In the past year, the number waiting has fallen by 28.5% to 177, 867 in contrast to a fall of 5.9% between September 2000 and September 2002.

Health Secretary John Reid said progress was being made: "The number waiting longer than six months has fallen by almost 30% in the last year alone, and the fall is even faster in the number of people waiting 13 weeks for an outpatient appointment, which has reduced by 38% in the last year alone.

"These are important findings. The NHS is far from perfect, but these figures show clearly why those who work in it deserve our thanks."

Sir Nigel Crisp told the BBC : "Many more people are getting treated without having to be admitted to hospital. There is much more activity in GP surgeries and outpatient clinics."

Some doctors have expressed concerns that the targets set out by the government may be skewing clinical priorities.

But Sir Nigel said: "All decisions about patient care should be based on clinical need."

Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "This report challenges recent misleading claims about the state of the NHS. It confirms what our members are telling us about an NHS that has made impressive progress by treating more patients more quickly and more conveniently."

Concerns

But Shadow Secretary State for Health and Education, Tim Yeo MP said: "NHS staff are doing the best they can. However, although improvements are occurring, they are minor given the amount of money poured into the NHS.

"Despite the headline figures, the reality beneath the surface is that nursing and GP recruitment is as difficult as ever.

"As a nation we are relying on short term, stopgap solutions in a bid for good headlines not long term solutions leading to sustainable recruitment."

And Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow said: "The NHS report does not reflect the pain and frustration felt by many patients in Britain today.

"Nor does it take account of the fact that many people going to hospital catch other illnesses due to lack of cleanliness in some wards."

"All the report shows is that what gets measured gets done.

"Getting the NHS to judge its own success is like getting school children to mark their own exam papers."

Gordon Brown has promised NHS spending will rise from 65.4bn in 2002 to 87.2bn in 2006.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Karen Allen
"Some surgeons still have concerns that clinical priorities are being skewed"



SEE ALSO:
NHS 'shows signs of improvement'
27 Nov 03  |  Health
NHS 'missing key targets'
05 Jun 03  |  Health
Cutting the waits
18 Feb 02  |  NHS Reform
NHS 'should adopt US practices'
28 Nov 03  |  Health


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