NHS waiting list grows… AGAIN! 7.2m patients now in queue for routine ops


The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment has surged to a new high, official figures show as hospital bosses warn strikes will cause even more chaos.

NHS data shows 7.2million patients in England were stuck in the backlog by October — equivalent to one in eight people. More than 400,000 had been queuing, often in pain, for at least one year.

The A&E crisis also worsened, with a third of emergency department attendees not seen within the health service’s four-hour target — the worst performance on record. More than 1,200 patients per day faced waits of more than 12 hours. 

Health chiefs have warned that a wave of strike action later this month among nurses and paramedics will cripple the health service further. 

Its performance is already deteriorating due to a surge in bed blockers, flu patients and demand from parents worried about the Strep A outbreak, with experts warning the NHS is ‘bursting at the seams’.

NHS waiting list grows… AGAIN! 7.2m patients now in queue for routine ops

Official figures show 7.1million people in England were in the queue for routine hospital treatment, such as hip and knee operations, by the end of September — the equivalent of one in eight people (red line). The figure includes more than 400,000 people who have been waiting, often in pain, for over one year (yellow bars)

The latest figures show that an extra 70,000 people joined the backlog in October, taking the queue for treatment to its highest level since records began in 2007.

The data shows 410,983 people had been waiting more than one year — the equivalent of one in 18 people on the waiting list. The figure is up 1.5 per cent compared to last month.

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Ministers have told the NHS to abolish all one-year waits by March 2025. 

The number of patients waiting at least 18 months fell by 656 in October. However, 50,124 people were still for one-and-a-half years — a backlog that is supposed to be cleared by April 2023.

Meanwhile, 1,907 people had been waiting more than two years. The NHS had the target of eliminating these long-waiters by the summer.

It says those who are still waiting are either complex cases or have turned down the chance to undergo their procedure sooner at a different hospital.

The NHS says it faces pressure from record demand in emergency care and a surge in influenza cases — with 712 beds taken up by flu patients per day, on average, last week.

On top of this, 95 per cent of general and acute adult beds were occupied last week, while an average of 13,358 patients per day last week spent more time in hospital than needed— the equivalent of around one in 10 beds unnecessarily occupied.

Danielle Jefferies, from the King’s Fund, said the figures show the NHS is ‘bursting at the seams as services head into winter struggling to meet sharply rising demand while keeping patients safe’.

Meanwhile, NHS data shows A&E performance plummeted in November.

Nearly a third of emergency department attendees (31.1 per cent, 143,949 people) had to wait more than the NHS four-hour target to be seen.

It is the worst rate recorded since records began in 2010.

The number waiting at least four hours dropped from 150,922 in October to 143,949 in November. But it is still the second-highest on record. 

And 37,837 people spent at least 12 hours in A&E — also the second-highest ever recorded. 

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While the figure is down 13.6 per cent on last month, it still equates to 1,261 patients per day in November facing the lengthy wait.

The NHS rule book states that at least 95 per cent of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. But this has not been met nationally since 2015.

Rachel Harrison, national secretary of GMB which is one of the three unions coordinating ambulance strikes this month, said: ‘Our ambulance staff have been saying for years there is a crisis in emergency healthcare.

‘This tin eared government need to talk to us about how to fix these issues.

‘There are 130,000 vacancies across our NHS. Without talking about pay you cannot fix the workforce shortage. Steve Barclay needs to talk to us about pay now.’

Professor Julian Redhead, NHS England’s clinical director for urgent and emergency care, said medics have ‘powered through to bring down some of our longest waits for care’.

He said: ‘We have already said we are dealing with a perfect storm of pressures this winter, including increased demand for emergency care.’

But plans are in place for new hubs to treat respiratory infections and falls to free-up ambulance capacity, Professor Redhead said.

He added: ‘The public can also play its part by using the best services for their care – using 111 services for urgent medical advice and 999 in an emergency – and to come forward for vaccinations, if eligible, to protect you and others around you against serious illness.’ 

Separate data on ambulance performance shows response times to each category of emergency improved in November. However, they still fell short of targets. 

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It took paramedics nine minutes and 26 seconds, on average, to reach category one patients — calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. This was 30 seconds faster than October.

Ambulances took an average of 48 minutes and eight seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is nearly three times as long as the 18 minute target but around 13 minutes speedier than one month earlier. 

Response times for category three calls — such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes — averaged two hours, 43 minutes and five seconds. 

This is around 50 minutes faster than October. But ambulances are supposed to arrive within two hours.  

However, these figures do not include data for London.

Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said the NHS is heading into winter ‘with more people waiting for treatment than at any time in history, and they are waiting longer than ever before’.

He said: ‘Behind the statistics are people suffering, sometimes for months or even years, putting their lives on hold because of their pain and discomfort.

‘The Government should be doing everything it can to bring down waiting lists, including using spare capacity in the private sector. No one should be waiting in pain while hospital beds that could be used lie empty.

‘But we also need to tackle the root cause of this crisis. Labour will train 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses a year, so patients can be treated on time again, paid for by abolishing non-doms.’


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