The scale of the financial crisis facing the NHS has been laid bare after more than 50 hospitals were given permission to miss key waiting times to help ease their fiscal difficulties.
The move is part of a package of measures taken by NHS bosses after hospitals exceeded their budgets by a record amount last year. Fines for missing targets in A&E, cancer and routine operations have been scrapped altogether.
The measures have been implemented to help the NHS reduce its deficit down to £250m this year after an overspend of £2.45bn was posted in 2015/16, the highest ever recorded and triple what it was the previous year.
That figure also covered the budgets for mental health units and ambulances, but it was the hospital sector that ran into the most difficulties with nearly nine in 10 ending the year in the red.
The notion of fining a poorly performing trust may seem counter-productive, with the punishment effectively being dealt to patients. But ultimately, financial sanctions are there to ensure that the highest standards of care are being met.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, describes the relaxation of the rules over missed targets as a “slippery slope back to the bad old days of never-ending waiting times and uncertainty”.
While these changes are only temporary, the NHS faces significant long-term challenges as it tries to contend with increased pressure and less funding – prompting fears of brutal service reductions and bed closures.
But despite the challenges ahead, one principle remains: patients are owed a duty of care – and if they are let down they have a right to seek damages.
Making a claim could result in the person affected receiving the necessary financial help to deal with the consequences of an error, as well as providing closure and helping to ensure the same mistake isn’t repeated.
How can our medical negligence solicitors help you?
Gotelee has a wealth of experience in this area and can advise you whether or not you have the basis of a claim.
To find out more, call us on 01473 298125.