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Patients getting sick as they have to wait a long time for NHS care, chief medical officer says | NHS



Patients develop cancer and are in so much pain they can’t climb stairs due to a 7.2 million waiting list for NHS scans and treatments, Britain’s chief general practitioner has said.

Professor Camila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said record delays in treatment and patients’ uncertainty about when they will finally be admitted are leaving people feeling “helpless and forgotten”.

These include people with heart problems, those awaiting hip or knee replacements, and people with potential signs of cancer who doctors say need to see a doctor urgently, she said.

In an interview with the Guardian, she expressed serious concern that the health of some of these patients has deteriorated due to the delay in accessing hospital care.

“Patients getting sick while they are on the waiting list is something that GPs see and worry about because the risk to the patient is much higher. It is inevitable that some stuck people will get sick because that is the nature of the disease,” she said.

“It could be someone waiting for a hip or knee replacement. They come to you and say, “It’s been three months and I haven’t heard anything.” Often the waiting time for orthopedics can be a year or two, so you know it will take forever. Then they will tell you that their toilet is upstairs and they have to crawl to get there. Or it may happen that their hip or knee pain gets to the point where they can’t sleep at night. This is what we hear.”

Women with persistent heavy bleeding that does not respond to treatment are of particular concern when they have to wait a long time for their condition to be examined, she says, because blood loss can be a sign of gynecological cancer.

“Waiting List [for a test] will be from eight to twelve months, and in the old days, so to speak, it would have been eight weeks. The risk they carry with them is much higher due to this waiting time.”

Hawthorne, who represents 50,000 UK family doctors, called on the NHS to create an Amazon-style tracking system that would put patients in control of when they are seen.

She said: “Something like the Amazon system would be amazing. In an ideal world, the NHS would have a system that would allow people to keep track of where they are on the waiting list.

“When we buy something online, we are told that our order has been received, when it is ready to ship, and the delivery date and time. Something like this… will help patients understand [where they are on the list] and to help GPs meet their expectations.”

The tracking system will reassure patients who are “worried, flustered and upset” about finally being seen and help them navigate the NHS jungle. It would also mean that they would no longer have to ask their GP to call the hospital to find out when an appointment would be, freeing up more time for appointments.

Patients with severe dyspnoea, in whom doctors suspect heart failure, may notice that their health deteriorates to the point that “they can’t take the dog for a walk, can’t go upstairs, and wake up short of breath, out of breath.” in the middle of the night,” Hawthorne added.

The British Heart Foundation said it shared Hawthorne’s concerns and “there is no doubt that some patients with cardiovascular disease are becoming ill when faced with extreme anticipation of care”, causing some to die. He cited long waiting times for tests, surgeries and other treatments as the main reasons.

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