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Page last updated at 07:36 GMT, Wednesday, 20 April 2011 08:36 UK

Hospital waiting time rise 'may be a warning sign'

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Hospital waiting times in England are at their longest for three years, an independent health think tank says.

Research by the King's Fund says statistics for February show 15% of patients waited more than 18 weeks for treatment, the longest time since April 2008.

It argues the shift is due to financial pressures on the NHS. But the government says these figures included some patients who delayed their own treatment and insists the real figure is actually 10.2%.

Speaking on Today, the NHS Confederation's Nigel Edwards said the report was "a little blip that might be a warning sign that there is trouble ahead".

"I am worried about the future," he said, as organisations within the NHS struggle to cope with efficiency savings and reorganisation.

But David Flory, the deputy chief executive of the NHS, said the health service "continues to perform really well" and waiting times are still "very low by historic standards".

Despite the slew of changes set to hit the NHS, he insisted "we can be confident that waiting times will be well managed".


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