A SURVEY of 1,084 people in England who have had NHS care either cancelled or postponed this year found that 39 per cent had experienced this two or more times, and 18 per cent on the day of, or on arrival for, an appointment.
The research published by Healthwatch England found that 66 per cent said cancellations to care had impacted their lives, reporting ongoing pain, worsening symptoms, disrupted sleep and worsening mental health.
Healthwatch England also found that disruptions to care disproportionately affect certain groups, widening existing health inequalities. Groups more likely to have had two or more NHS postponements or cancellations included disabled people, neurodivergent people and people on lower incomes, ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+.
More than half (52 per cent) of respondents said they hadn’t been offered support to manage their medical condition during the new wait for care, and 79 per cent said the NHS had offered them ‘very little’ or ‘no support’ to manage their mental health risks.
Louise Ansari, CEO of Healthwatch England, said: “The findings show that many people are currently facing worsening and, in some cases, catastrophic health impacts due to ongoing delays to care. And addressing health inequalities continues to be a significant challenge for the NHS.
“While we welcomed the recently announced long-term NHS workforce plan, we need to see action to tackle the cycle of high patient need and ongoing pressures in healthcare now. We urgently need to reduce the number of cancellations of appointments, especially last-minute cancellations, and greater action is needed to address widening health inequalities.
“With industrial action in the NHS being one of the many factors impacting on people's ability to access timely care, we are also renewing our call for all parties to reach a resolution to mitigate the impact of strikes on patients.”
Healthwatch England is also calling for the NHS to collect and publish official data on cancellations to understand what is driving this and use the data to reduce the high number of last-minute cancellations. It also calls for more significant support to those most affected by new delays, especially with mental health needs, and to improve communication to those who are left in “limbo” with no new date.
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