A report has claimed that health bosses are delaying patients' treatment in a bid to prompt them to go private instead.
An independent agency that advises the Department of Health found that some primary care trusts are attempting to save cash by holding back on operations until after 15 weeks.
The report said that trusts were adopting the move after finding that those stuck on waiting lists for longer will "remove themselves from the list or will no longer require treatment when it is finally offered".
The report went on to suggest that increasing waiting times could lead to savings for trusts.
"We understand that patients will 'remove themselves from the waiting list' either by dying or by paying for their own treatment at private sector providers," the report by the Co-operation and Competition Panel (CCP) said.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "When GPs, specialist doctors and nurses are making the decisions, as they will under our plans, they will plan care on the basis of the clinical needs of patients and their right to access the best service, including the least possible waiting time."