Waiting list for hospitals in England continues to grow

Waiting list for hospitals in England continues to grow

Waiting list for hospitals in England continues to grow

The number of people queuing for elective hospital procedures in England has grown again to nearly 6.5 million, official data shows.

According to the latest figures, the total waiting list for these planned treatments – from hip replacement to cataract surgery – was 6.48 million in April, an increase of 120,000 from March.

Before the pandemic, this number was around 4.4 million. But it had been rising steadily for about a decade.

The number of people waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment – the longest time patients in public hospitals have to wait for these procedures – has also risen by about 95,000.

However, there are some signs of improvement for patients who wait an extremely long time for treatment. The number of people waiting two years or more has fallen by about 4,000, from about 16,800 to 12,700.

Before the pandemic, it was rare for patients to wait more than a year for elective treatment. But Covid-19 has put a huge strain on elective care, forcing hospitals to cancel and postpone procedures during periods of intense pressure.

These improvements reflect the significant efforts by hospitals to see the tallest waiters as soon as possible. Since a peak of nearly 23,800 in January, the number of people waiting two years or more has fallen by nearly 10,000.

Commenting on the latest data, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation industry group, said: “The hard work is paying off…and it’s a testament to the tireless efforts of NHS staff that this has been achieved . But they know there is more to do.”

Leaders want to end two-year wait times by July, but with an emergency room crisis developing in parallel and covid admissions starting to rise again, there’s no guarantee this target will be met.

Any measures to address this pressure, Taylor argued, should include salary increases for the lowest-paid workers. “The NHS is full of dedicated staff and leaders, but they cannot work miracles,” he said.

“There is a capacity gap between financial resilience, capital investment and workforce that requires urgent government attention.

“Systems operation, innovation and collaboration alone will not be able to cope with the magnitude of the challenge currently facing healthcare.”