Heart patients getting faster treatment in UK
May 13, 2005 - 7:52:38 PM

Tens of thousands of patients needing heart surgery are getting treatment quicker than ever before thanks to the NHS meeting targets ahead of schedule, new Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced today.

Patients requiring heart bypasses or angioplasties - a procedure to unblock arteries - are having their operations within three months, she said.

Publishing the latest report from NHS Chief Executive Nigel Crisp, she said the progress made in tackling heart disease typified the huge improvements being experienced across the service.

Sir Nigel's report shows that:

* more than 99 per cent of people with suspected cancer are seen by a specialist within two weeks of referral, and over 97 per cent of women with breast cancer receive treatment within one month of diagnosis;
* British men have had the world's sharpest fall in deaths from lung cancer, and in the past decade British women have had the world's biggest decrease in deaths from breast cancer; and
* by the end of January 2005, no-one was waiting more than three months for their first cataract operation, one of the most common types of operation, a target met four years ahead of schedule.

New figures published today show the target to treat heart patients within three months was met in March 2005 - three years ahead of schedule - compared to waits of over 18 months in 2000 and up to two years in 1997.

Heart bypasses and angioplasty are the most common types of heart operations, totalling 69,000 last year. This includes around 47,000 angioplasties and 22,000 heart bypasses. Heart bypass surgery accounts for 70 per cent of the total cardiac surgery activity for last year.

Sir Nigel's report confirms that patients are continuing to experience faster access to services across the board and that the NHS is providing improved quality of care. Sir Nigel says the progress marks the halfway point in delivering the NHS Plan.

Other highlights of the report include:

* faster treatment is also shown by the reduction of 491,000 people waiting for surgery - a record low of 822,000 in March 2005 compared to 1,313,000 in April 1998, a reduction of 37 per cent.
* quality of care is improving across the service - from GPs being rewarded for the standard of their care, to patients being placed at the heart of services;
* the NHS is becoming a world-leader for emergency care, with over 98 per cent of patients seen and treated in A&E within 4 hours;
* unnecessary waiting for discharge from hospital after treatment is continuing to reduce - levels of delayed discharges have fallen considerably from 2,841 in March 2004 to 2,359 in March 2005.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said:

"This report should give patients, staff and taxpayers great encouragement.

"These are significant achievements for the NHS. They are a result of the extra investment we've been putting into the system, our programme of reform, and the dedication and hard work of NHS staff

"My appointment falls at almost precisely the half way mark in the 10-year programme that the Prime Minister and Alan Milburn set out in the NHS Plan in 2000.

"That was an ambitious programme of investment and reform which required the commitment of staff. It set a direction of modernisation that is putting patients - not the providers - at the centre of everything the NHS does.

"I intend to continue to modernise and reform the way services are provided to patients and there are a number of important challenges ahead. We need to focus on achieving our pledge to reduce the maximum waiting time to 18 weeks, we need to transform the system to give patients more choice and more control over their treatment, and we need to press on with tackling MRSA."

Sir Nigel Crisp said:

"In my previous two reports, I said that efforts over the last few years have concentrated on expanding, and speeding up access, to NHS services.

"My latest report confirms that this is continuing, but also that the quality of care is increasing too.

"We're at the halfway point in the NHS Plan. Since the Plan was published in 2000, the main focus has been on increasing capacity.

"We are now able to concentrate on making sure that the services we deliver are of a high level of quality and ensuring that we constantly strive to improve them, ensuring that patients throughout the NHS receive the same high level of care.

"For example, GPs are now being rewarded for the quality of their work, not just the size of their patient list. Practices are being rewarded for delivering high-quality care and prevention of the big killers such as cancer and heart disease, and also diabetes, stroke, lung disease, asthma and mental illness.

"More procedures are also being undertaken in primary care settings, bringing services closer to the patient.

"By placing patients at the heart of services, offering greater choice, encouraging patients to take a stake in their own care and through the local NHS understanding patients' needs better, I'm confident this commitment to quality will be experienced across the whole NHS.

"We are now at the halfway mark of the NHS Plan and progress has been very good. We know there is more to do but these achievements give me confidence that we can improve services even further."

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