St George’s Hospital has drawn sharp criticism after new figures revealed nearly a third of patients are waiting too long for treatment.

Mitcham and Morden MP Siobhain McDonagh said she was “shocked” to learn that 30 per cent of patients for four key treatment areas were waiting for treatment longer than 18 weeks, the national target.

The hospital’s trust have already extended opening hours to weekends as part of action plans drawn up to clear the backlog in gynaecology, general surgery, orthopaedics and ear, nose and throat.

Ms McDonagh, who had obtained the figures from the hospital’s chief executive at a recent hospital board meeting, said: “I thought it was extraordinary to see the proportion of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks being almost half.

“The 18-week target is in the NHS’s contract with patients. “If the list gets too long they will have to send a lot of people to private sector providers which will cost the NHS even more money.”

At the beginning of 2009, the NHS set a standard for delivery of care in which it pledged no patient should wait longer than 18 weeks from referral by their GPs to the start of their first definitive treatment.

A spokesman for St George’s Healthcare did not explain why the number of patients waiting list was 30 per cent above target and could not provide the same data for the previous year.

He said: “Each of these services has developed action plans to clear the backlog that include extending opening hours and opening at weekends.

“The trust is also in discussions with a number of other local providers in order to offer those patients who cannot all be accommodated in the additional capacity a choice of provider.

“It is too early to know how many of these patients will be transferred to other providers.”

The spokesman said all urgent referrals, including suspected cancer cases, were being offered an appointment within two weeks and that St George’s Hospital Trust was delivering against all national cancer targets.

Dr Mike Squires, from Wandsworth Keep Our NHS Public, said St George's was failing to meet waiting times targets because, like every other NHS hospital, it was being forced to make cuts.

Dr Squires said: "As many as 500 jobs are to be lost at the hospital as well as ward closures. Waiting times for patients to be admitted for treatment, or for an outpatient appointment will inevitably increase.

"To compound this already dangerous situation, the Government are set to hand over the bulk of NHS funding to GPs, or more correctly to private companies, who will act of behalf of the proposed new Clinical Commissioning groups, composed of GPs and a hospital doctor and nurse."

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