Waiting targets for cancer care, A&E and planned operations are being missed by hospitals across the UK, according to BBC research.
Hospitals have not hit one of these three target areas for 18 months in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The waiting time targets are; planned operations within 18 weeks, cancer care within 62 days and four-hour A&E wait times.
During the research, staff explained how shortages of doctors and nurses and lack of room in A&E departments made it very difficult to see patients quick enough.
You can search for your local hospital to see the performance ratings using the BBC 'NHS Tracker' here.
Lesley Herbertson, senior clinical negligence solicitor at Potter Rees Dolan, said:
The results are disappointing in that the vast majority of hospital trusts are not meeting the targets set. Of course, target times are arbitrary goals and failure to meet the same does not necessarily mean that patients are necessarily worse off.
Similarly, failure to meet a target will not necessarily lead to a claim for negligent treatment. However, it is a matter of common sense that the longer a patient waits for care the more likely it is that their ill-health will worsen.
The figures from the BBC show the waiting time performance has declined over the years and it is affecting patients.
Patients waiting in A&E are now twice as likely to wait more than four hours than they were four years ago and waiting times for treatment in cancer patients has risen by over a third. Lesley added:
At Potter Rees Dolan we often deal with cases where delays (regardless of any targets set) are considered to be negligent and to have caused injury. For example, a delay in dealing with a head injury or headache in A&E can mean that the patient suffers an avoidable permanent brain injury. A delay in sending a cancer patient for a scan or a biopsy might mean than an opportunity to cure or stem the progress of the cancer is lost.
Clearly then, faster treatment is in everyone’s best interests, whether a target is in place or not.
Lesley Herbertson is a senior clinical negligence solicitor here at Potter Rees Dolan. Should you have any queries about clinical negligence due to long waiting times or operation delays or indeed any other aspect of this article and wish to speak to Lesley or any other member of the team please contact us on 0161 237 5888 or email Lesley directly.