Around 40% of NHS compensation claims are already due to delays in treatment or diagnosis, but this could increase if people continue to be left on long waiting lists, according to a report published by the National Audit Office (NAO).
Long waiting lists for treatment could see the number of angry patients suing the NHS rise significantly, new research suggests.
Sir Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said the NHS had made good progress in increasing the number of urgent cancer referrals but that more must be done to tackle the increasing number of patients on non-urgent waiting lists.
Between March 2013 and November 2018, the waiting list grew from 2.7 million to 4.2 million.
nder current health service targets, 92% of patients with non-urgent conditions such a those needing hip and knee replacements – should be treated within 18 weeks after they have been referred.
However, this target has not been hit since February 2016. In January, just 86.7% of patients were seen within 18 weeks but NHS figures show that 11,000 more people were treated within the target than in January 2018.
The NAO study said there was a risk that longer waiting times in the NHS could lead to patient harm and negligence claims against the health service.
A spokesperson for the NHS said: The NAO is right to highlight improvements to NHS cancer care, which mean more people are surviving cancer than ever before, and that despite significant increases in demand, more people than are getting quick tests and hospital treatment.
As the additional funding to help deliver the NHS Long Term Plan becomes available from April, local health groups are being allocated the money they need to increase the amount of operations and other care they provide, to cut long waits.
NHS England revealed last month that the 18-week target could be scrapped altogether as it moves towards average waiting times for planned operations.
But if the health service decides to uphold it, significant additional investment would be needed, the NAO said.
As underlying demand continues to grow, it is hard to see how the NHS will be able to improve waiting times in the short term without significant investment in additional staffing and infrastructure capacity to support the NHS, the report read.