NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Waiting Lists and Global Budgets

January 30, 2003

Greater global investment in Britain's National Health Service will not, by itself, solve the problem of long waiting lists, say researchers.

That is because they found that the length of time patients must wait to receive treatment at NHS hospitals is not correlated with the resources available. According to the study in the British Medical Journal:

  • Between 52 percent and 83 percent of patients waiting longer than six months for elective surgery in the specialties studied were found in one quarter of hospital trusts.
  • More beds, operating theaters and doctors were not associated with shorter waiting times, implying that there are other important influences.
  • However, there was consistent evidence for increased prolonged waiting with increasing numbers of anesthetists for all the specialties studied and with increased bed occupancy rates for ear, nose and throat surgery.

Patients with a greater need for health care, as measured by deprivation scores and rates of limiting long term illness, experienced less prolonged waiting.

Source: Richard M Martin, et al., "NHS waiting lists and evidence of national or local failure: analysis of health service data," British Medical Journal, January 25, 2003.


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