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Referral waiting times - why the 8% matters

Hospital corridor
27th April 2016

The NHS has many amazing people working hard every day to deliver the highest level of care possible.

A key barometer of performance is the target of starting treatment for 92% of non-urgent patients* within 18 weeks of referral from a GP.

Whilst the latest published statistics show that the NHS achieved this target, it means that at the end of February 2016 there were still 8% (or a total of 264,327 people) waiting longer than the target time.

In most instances, delays to treatment are unavoidable and the impact is minimal. However, in some cases of medical negligence, the wait may have been the result of an error and could ultimately lead to severe and long-term consequences for the patient and their families.

Why delays matter

Failure to act on test results, late referrals, delays in prescription delivery, inaccurate diagnosis or administrative errors can all result in a longer wait for the treatment you require.

This can lead to your medical condition worsening and in some cases, non-serious conditions may deteriorate to the point where more complicated treatment becomes necessary.

Sometimes the effects of an extended waiting period may only be fully realised weeks or months after the initial diagnosis and referral.

This may leave you unable to return to work or take care of loved ones who depend on you. In the most tragic and rarest of cases, you may be mourning the loss of a loved one as a result of an avoidable delay to their treatment.

What you can do?

Between the NHS’ duty of care and the right to choose your treatment, monitor your schedule and question decisions, most unnecessary and potentially harmful delays can be avoided.

As a patient, it’s important that you are given all of the information you need about your condition and any treatments you are offered. If you feel uncertain, don’t fully understand the information you’ve been supplied, or expected timelines are not being followed, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need.

As the NHS’ figures show, extended waiting times are thankfully becoming rarer, but if you or a loved one have suffered the effects of an avoidable delay in treatment or other medical negligence, it’s important to know you have options.

Your Legal Friend’s team is highly experienced in helping recognise and pursue potential cases of delayed treatment and will work closely with you to secure the support you need.

If you think you have a claim, we’re here to support you through every stage of the process.

If you would like to discuss your situation confidentially, please call 0808 159 6456

* If heart disease or cancer is suspected the maximum referral time is much shorter, with no more than two weeks given for cancer treatment to begin.