NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Heart Patients Die On Waiting Lists

March 13, 2000

A face-to-face debate between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and doctors, nurses and National Health Service managers highlights some of the problems the NHS faces in funding and allocating resources. During the wide-ranging session at St.Thomas's Hospital, London, Blair was grilled about waiting lists, clinical priorities, staff shortages and the use of resources.

  • Twenty patients waiting for heart surgery in Bristol have died within the past six months, the PM was told.
  • "We have only half the national level of funding for heart surgery, and we have 700 patients on our waiting lists, of which 100 have been waiting for more than a year for open heart surgery," said Peter Wilde, director of cardiothoracic services for the United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust.
  • According to Wilde, funding in the region is 45 percent below the national average, although 70 percent "of our patients are also urgent and need to be operated on immediately."

"There is pressure to cut waiting lists and one of the ways they do this is to push through minor operations. Ten minor operations from a number crunching point of view look better than one major heart operation, but we should be treating patients not numbers," one staff member told Blair.

Source: Roger Dobson, "Blair tackled on heart deaths," British Medical Journal, March 11, 2000.


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