Heart disease and NHS waiting lists down

In a good day for the NHS it has been announced that deaths resulting from heart disease and patients’ waiting lists have both fallen.

Premature deaths from coronary heart disease are down 35.9 per cent since 1996, according to a new report launched by health secretary Patricia Hewitt today.

“We are one of the highest spending countries in Europe for cardiovascular diseases, with one of the fastest improving services,” said Ms Hewitt.

“More new cardiothoracic centres and catheter laboratories closer to people’s homes, better equipment and lower mortality rates all demonstrate how the commitment of dedicated NHS professionals has helped to improve services for patients.”

Additionally, the Department of Health announced today the number of in-patients waiting more than 20 weeks fell 5,600 between October and November, with the number of patients waiting more than 13 weeks falling 11.9 per cent from October and 3.8 per cent from November 2005.

The number of out-patients waiting more than 11 weeks fell 8,000 between October and November, with the number of people waiting more than eight weeks down 8.1 per cent month-on-month and 36.4 per cent compared with November 2005.

However, this progress was questioned by opposition parties.

“These figures must be taken with a strong note of caution,” said Liberal Democrat Health spokesman Norman Lamb.

“The government’s emphasis on bringing down waiting times above all else has pushed many hospitals into the red as they are forced to manipulate resources to meet strict targets.

“Patient care can also suffer as resources in some hospitals are diverted solely to meet waiting time targets.”

He also questioned the sustainability of these improvements.

“The government is spending large amounts of money on buying in operations from the private sector in order to hit its targets, something that is not sustainable,” Mr Lamb said.

“With next year’s slowdown in NHS spending and the forecast of hospitals cutting doctors’ posts, there is a real danger that waiting times will start to go up again.”