NHS waiting lists can fall by 2.2 million with my plan, says Dr. Peter Fitzgerald

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Private diagnostic clinics can help end the scourge of NHS waiting lists 

By Dr. Peter Fitzgerald

NHS waiting times are one of the greatest domestic challenges facing the United Kingdom. Government has officially recognised this for some time, with the current incarnation highlighting wait times as one of the government’s top 5 priorities.

Wait times clog up the system and can mean potentially lifesaving early diagnosis are missed simply because there is too much time between people going to the doctor and the results coming back. Worse, can be the wait times between referral’s to specialists or just regular hospitals.

However, we have a solution that will revolutionize the system. By embracing preventative medicine in a revitalised partnership between the NHS and the private sector we could cut waiting lists by millions and save the taxpayer billions of pounds.

By integrating diagnostic clinics, which were used to great affect during the Covid pandemic, we would be able to diagnose serious illnesses, diseases or other health problems long before they become symptomatic.

Private testing clinics can already deliver clear and accurate results in less than a day, usually only a few hours. This far outstrips the week-long norm in the NHS. This would allow GPs to have far faster turnaround times for patients and quicker assessment of patient needs.

Critically, modern testing techniques enable experts to test for a wide variety of potential illnesses from a single small blood or urine sample and so spot problems before a patient becomes ill, making it possible for successful medical or surgical intervention.

The adage of prevention being better than a cure may not truly work here but every medical professional will tell you that an early diagnosis drastically improves a patient’s outcomes. Early diagnosis normally reduces both the financial cost and the health cost to a patient.

By outsourcing testing to the private sector – under a rigorous independent tendering process – the NHS can be freed up to get on with its prime job of treating the sick.

Under our proposals, the public would be invited to visit a private diagnostic clinic every year for a check-up. Results would be monitored by in house scientists who would advise people on next steps.  Results would be routinely passed onto GPs, though in many cases no further action would be needed.

GPs would ultimately decide on medical interventions and possible referral to NHS hospital services. A priority group for such tests would be the 7.7 million on NGS waiting lists. They would be assessed to see if their condition had worsened and whether urgent action was required.

We estimate that by embracing private testing technology, the government could save the NHS £3 billion a year and reduce the waiting list backlog by around 2.2 million people.