Faster diagnosis crucial to cutting operation waiting lists, says PM in Newtown visit

The Prime Minister said improving diagnostic services would be crucial to cutting the backlog of patients waiting for routine operations during a visit to the region.

Boris Johnson during a visit to Hilltop Honey in Newtown, Powys, Wales. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Boris Johnson during a visit to Hilltop Honey in Newtown, Powys, Wales. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Boris Johnson said the recent hike in National Insurance would help provide the investment needed to cut waiting times after it was revealed that 46,005 patients were waiting for non-urgent elective operations at the hospitals serving Shropshire and Mid Wales.

Mr Johnson spoke to the Shropshire Star during a visit to a honey producer in Mid Wales on Friday afternoon, his first public appearance since the police concluded its investigations into parties at Downing Street during lockdown.

"We have a programme to recruit 50,000 more nurses by 2024, and we're on target to do that, we're building 100 community diagnosis hubs to ensure faster diagnosis.

"Most delays are not caused by the wait for an operation, they are usually caused by the wait for a diagnosis, so we need to reduce the time that people have to wait to get a diagnosis or a scan."

He said greater use of new technology would play a major role in cutting the backlog, and the recent 1.25 per cent hike in National Insurance – known as the Health and Social Care Levy – would raise money to pay for such investment.

Mr Johnson said he hoped the benefits of the extra funding would be felt as soon as possible, and said there were already signs of improvement.

"I know with cancer waiting times, the target is to get a diagnosis within 28 days for 75 per cent of patients, and we are starting to see progress in NHS trusts, some are getting up to that level, there are still some that are behind, and some that are ahead."

Mr Johnson said he believed the after-effects of the pandemic meant that some people were still reluctant to see the doctor, and it was important that people got themselves diagnosed at the earliest possible opportunity.

"It's very important that people should continue to use the NHS and have their scans and get their diagnoses," he said.

"There was a period when people didn't want to use the NHS or their GPs, but it is important that people now get back to using the NHS as normal."

Mr Johnson said it was important that those responsible for the failings which led to the deaths of two patients at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital were held to account.

Mr Johnson was visiting Hilltop Honey in Newtown, ahead of his speech to the Welsh Conservative Party conference at the town's Hafren conference centre.

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