‘Children are suffering’ due to long NHS surgery waits

The number of children receiving treatment in private hospitals across the UK rose by almost a quarter last year to more than 46,000, according to new data seen by the BBC.

In each case, families either paid for treatment or used medical insurance – rather than being referred by the NHS.

The record figures from private healthcare providers come as England’s NHS trusts tell File on 4 that children have become the “forgotten generation” in the race to reduce health service backlogs.

The Department of Health says NHS staff are “working tirelessly” to cut waiting lists.

But the Royal College of Surgeons of England told us children were lagging behind adults and spending years waiting for NHS surgery – with potentially life-long consequences for their health and development.

NHS Providers, which represents trusts, says some hospitals can find it easier to do large numbers of adult operations because they are often simpler and quicker to perform.

‘A cloud over my head’

The BBC has spoken to a number of families whose children’s conditions have deteriorated during long waits.

They include 16-year-old Georgina Smith from Hertfordshire, who is waiting for open-heart surgery to repair a valve on her right side which doesn’t close properly. It can cause her blood to flow the wrong way, making it harder for her heart to work.

Georgina is one of 601 children waiting for heart surgery in England – 139 have been waiting more than six months.

She suffers chest pains, extreme fatigue and fainting episodes and has been forced to miss a lot of school.

Ten years ago, Georgina’s parents were told she needed surgery immediately. But then doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children said it would be better to wait until her heart was fully grown.

However, last year an ultrasound showed Georgina’s heart was getting weaker. Doctors said she should have surgery within six months. But Georgina has been on the waiting list for nine months.

Georgina says she feels like her operation will never happen. “It’s like a cloud over my head, it’s always just this waiting and waiting and waiting,” she says.

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