Commenting on figures published today (Thursday 7 June 2007) by the Department of Health on the number of patients who have met the 18-week referral-to-treatment target for England, the Chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) consultants' committee, Dr Jonathan Fielden, said:
"The fact that almost half of all patients are being treated in 18 weeks is encouraging and is a testament to how hard NHS doctors and other health professionals have been working.
"There is still a long way to go though to ensure that patients are treated as soon as clinically needed and for these improvements to be sustained. Consultants have demonstrated that they can lead change and innovate new and efficient ways of caring for patients but many are still hampered from making further progress. Doctors were told earlier this year to 'slow down' and operations were cancelled so that hospitals could balance their books. The government should free clinicians, both GPs and consultants, to deliver the best value they can rather than fetter them with central targets.
"The government has to now develop long-term solutions that allow doctors to work with all healthcare professionals and patients to enable the highest quality of care and patient experience to be achieved."