Thank you very much for your email regarding the NHS mandate and waiting times targets.
As our population ages, demand for NHS services continues to rise and I’d like to commend the dedication and compassion of our NHS staff. I can assure you that the Government is taking clear steps to support the NHS and ensure that it continues to offer the world's finest healthcare. Not only is the Government increasing NHS investment by over £8 billion this parliament, it’s making progress on reforms which will reduce waiting times and alleviate pressures on the NHS. Through the £3.6 billion investment in the Better Care Fund, as well as the NHS's continuing implementation of its own plan for the future, the Five Year Forward View, I believe that the proper integration of health and social care over the next three years will be of huge benefit to the NHS and patients alike. Excellent progress is being made. Compared to five years ago, nearly half a million more people are treated within 18 weeks of referral and I’m happy to say that safety in the NHS continues to improve.
I understand your concern about waiting times in the NHS; many NHS trusts have faced difficulty in meeting their waiting time targets thanks to acute challenges this winter. The NHS sets exceptionally high waiting time standards and the Government works with bodies like NHS Improvement to make sure they’re delivered throughout the health service. I fully appreciate the distress that long waiting times can cause and I’m happy to reassure you that reducing waiting times has been and remains a key objective for the NHS. I think that significant progress has been made towards achieving that goal over the past five years. Last year the NHS in England carried out 11.6 million operations, equating to 1.9 million more than in 2009/10. In addition, the NHS carried out 20.2 million diagnostic tests; that’s 5.9 million more than eight years ago.
Under the NHS Constitution, patients have the right to access certain services within maximum waiting times. This is determined according to individual patient's clinical needs, meaning that, for example, patients with urgent conditions will be able to be seen and receive treatment more quickly. I believe that timely access to services is a critical part of our experience of care and that the NHS should be there for people when they need it.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes.