NHS waiting list hits ANOTHER high amid Covid-fuelled crisis: 6.18MILLION waiting for routine ops


The number of patients waiting for routine hospital treatment in England has soared to a new record of 6.18million, as ambulance and emergency department waits also reach all-time highs.  

NHS data shows one in nine people were in the queue, often in pain, for elective operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts surgery by February — up from 6.1million in January. 

Separate data shows A&E performance plummeted to its worst ever level in March, with a record 22,506 people waiting 12 hours to be treated, three times longer than the NHS target. Just seven in 10 patients in casualty units were seen within the four-hour threshold, marking the worst performance yet.  

Ambulance figures reveal heart attack and stroke patients were left waiting for more than an hour for paramedics to arrive on average — another record.

Health bosses argue the NHS has faced its busiest ever winter and a slight drop among the longest waiters show it is tackling the backlog.  

NHS leaders said the health service needs more cash to fill its 110,000 vacancies and ongoing problems in social care, despite receiving a record £136.1 billion this year to help it recover from Covid.

Ministers announced an elective recovery plan earlier this year, setting out how waiting lists will finally start to fall from March 2024, while two-year waits would be scrapped by the summer. But experts today warned ‘it is hard to imagine an end in sight, with lengthy waits for healthcare firmly here to stay’.

It comes as doctors today record-high Covid infection are leading to operations being cancelled across England, despite daily admissions and the number of infected patients in hospital trending downwards. 

The graph shows the NHS England waiting list for routine surgery, such as hip and knee operations (red line), hit a record high 6.18million in February. The figure is 46 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels and 1.3 per cent more than in January. Official figures also revealed that the number of patients forced to wait more than two years (yellow bars) stood at 23,281 in February, which is 497 patients (two per cent) less than one month earlier

NHS England data shows medics took an average of one hour, one minute and three seconds last month to respond to emergency calls, such as heart attacks, strokes, burns and epilepsy, in March. The figure is up from 42 minutes and seven seconds in February and is the longest time on record (red bars). It is also more than triple the NHS target of 18 minutes

NHS England data shows medics took an average of one hour, one minute and three seconds last month to respond to emergency calls, such as heart attacks, strokes, burns and epilepsy, in March. The figure is up from 42 minutes and seven seconds in February and is the longest time on record (red bars). It is also more than triple the NHS target of 18 minutes

NHS data shows a record 22,506 people had to wait more than 12 hours in March from a decision to admit to actually being admitted (yellow bars). The number is up from 16,404 in February, signalling a 37 per cent month-on-month jump, and is the highest since records began in August 2010. And just 71.6 per cent of patients in England were seen within four hours at A&Es last month, the lowest percentage in records going back to November 2010 (red line)

NHS data shows a record 22,506 people had to wait more than 12 hours in March from a decision to admit to actually being admitted (yellow bars). The number is up from 16,404 in February, signalling a 37 per cent month-on-month jump, and is the highest since records began in August 2010. And just 71.6 per cent of patients in England were seen within four hours at A&Es last month, the lowest percentage in records going back to November 2010 (red line)

The record 6.18million people in the backlog in February is 46 per cent higher than the 4.2million people in England stuck in the queue in March 2020, before the pandemic wreaked havoc across the country.

The figure is also 1.3 per cent higher than the 6.1million from January. 

Some 3.8million of those in the queue have been waiting for at least four months, while 2.3million have been waiting for more than four months — both of which are higher than one month earlier.

Nine NHS patients in England have waited more than FOUR YEARS for routine surgery and more than 90 have waited THREE, figures show 

Dozens of patients in England have waited more than three years for routine surgery, according to figures that lay bare the extent of the NHS backlog crisis.

At least nine have been on the NHS waiting list for over four years and 93 have been waiting for at least three, according to the analysis of 69 hospital trusts. 

There are around 250 trusts in total in England, meaning the figures may be just the tip of the iceberg. 

Leading surgeons warned the ‘shocking’ figures are people are left in ‘real emotional and physical distress’, while patients said they feel ‘forgotten’ and have been left in ‘soul destroying’ pain. 

A quarter of the longest waiters at the 69 trusts which supplied data are waiting for care for trauma and orthopaedic care – which covers hip and knee replacements. 

One patient told of the ‘huge impact’ on her life after spending almost four years on the waiting list in pain that ‘ate me up from the inside out’. 

When one of her operations eventually went ahead it was ‘bigger than it needed to be’ due to additional damage caused by the delays, she said. 

Jo Goulding, 49, said waiting for elbow and shoulder replacements had a 'huge impact' on her family and her physical health deteriorated while waiting

Jo Goulding, 49, said waiting for elbow and shoulder replacements had a ‘huge impact’ on her family and her physical health deteriorated while waiting

A total of 299,478 have been waiting for more than a year, according to the February figure, which is down four per cent compared to January.

There were a further 23,281 patients who had been waiting more than two years in February, down two per cent compared to a month earlier.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid last month set out the ambition to eliminate all waits of more than two years, except when it is the patient’s choice, by July 2022, while he pledged no patients will be waiting longer than one year by March 2025.

Separate A&E data from the health services shows 2.1million people attended A&E in March, up by a fifth on February.

A record 22,506 people had to wait more than 12 hours in March from a decision to admit to actually being admitted.

The number is up from 16,404 in February — a 37 per cent month-on-month jump. That is also the highest number since records began in August 2010.

A total of 136,297 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in March, another all-time high.

Just 71.6 per cent of patients in England were seen within four hours at A&Es last month, the lowest percentage in records going back to November 2010.

NHS standards set out 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.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said: ‘Nobody should be under any illusion about how tough a job NHS staff have on their hands, balancing competing priorities and maintaining high quality patient care.

‘Despite pressure on various fronts and the busiest winter ever for the NHS, long waits fell as staff continue to tackle two-year waits by July thanks to the innovative approaches to care they are now adopting – from same day hip replacements to dedicated mobile hubs for operations.

‘As ever, if you need help, especially over the often busy bank holiday weekend, please do come forward for the care you need through NHS 111 online and if it’s an emergency, dial 999 or go to your nearest A&E.’ 

Ambulance data shows medics took an average of one hour, one minute and three seconds last month to respond to emergency calls, such as heart attacks, strokes, burns and epilepsy.

This is up from 42 minutes and seven seconds in February and is the longest time on record for category two 999 call-outs.

Response times to category one calls — life-threatening incidents including cardiac and respiratory arrest — jumped to nine minutes and 35 seconds — the highest ever recorded and up from eight minutes and 51 seconds in February.

The time taken for medics to respond to urgent but not immediately life-threatening 999 calls — such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes — averaged three hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds. 

This is up from two hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds in February and marks another record high.   

Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said: ‘Record numbers are forced to wait longer than ever before, and horrifying reports of heart attack and stroke victims waiting hours in agony for an ambulance to arrive are now borne out by these figures.’ 

The Liberal Democrats said the figures are ‘catastrophic for people up and down the country’.

Make your OWN way to hospital… to save the NHS! Paramedic says crisis needs ’emergency measures’ – which could see ambulances only attend patients who are genuinely dying 

Women in the late stages of labour should drive themselves to hospital instead of getting an ambulance because of the ongoing crisis in emergency departments, a paramedic suggested today.

Kristin Houlgate, who works for South Western Ambulance Service, said she is not confident NHS ambulances can ‘provide a safe level of service to the British public’ due to staffing crises and record demand.

She said paramedics should perhaps only be called out to Category 1 or 2 patients who are at immediate risk of dying — including those suffering strokes and cardiac arrests.

The medic suggested less urgent Category 3 and 4 calls should be left to make their own way to hospital.

This includes women in late stage labour, and patients with non-severe burns and diabetic complications.

The ambulance crisis has hit boiling point in recent weeks, leaving elderly Britons waiting in agony for up to 14 hours for an ambulance.

Heart attack and stroke patients have had to wait for up to 70 minutes in the most extreme cases.

Some ambulance trusts have already hit the panic button and told the least urgent patients to make their own way to hospital.

 

A spokesperson said: ‘The Conservatives haven’t just taken our health service for granted – they have completely run it into the ground.

‘This Government needs to act, they must launch an investigation into the crisis in our ambulance services, fill the 100,000 vacancies in the NHS and get a handle on devastating cancer waiting times.’

NHS England figures show 220,037 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in February, up 26 per cent from 174,762 in the same month last year. The equivalent figure for February 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 179,833.

The proportion of patients in England seeing a specialist within two weeks was 81 per cent, up from 75 per cent in January, which was the lowest percentage in records going back to October 2009.

Some 74 per cent of patients urgently referred for suspected cancer in England in February were diagnosed or had cancer ruled out within 28 days. 

The elective recovery plan sets that 75 per cent of patients with suspected cancer should know their cancer status within four-weeks by March 2024.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said the figures show ‘how much pressure the service is under’ and the trends in ambulance response times are ‘very concerning’.

He said hospital bosses are ‘deeply aware of the obvious risks to patient safety here and are doing all they can to manage these risks’ but are experiencing the ‘most sustained difficult and pressured period of time they can remember’.

Mr Hopson said trusts are still struggling as Covid is causing staff absences and means more beds are occupied, so the downturn in the number of patients waiting more than one and two years ‘reflects how hard trusts are working to recover, and then exceed, pre-pandemic levels of activity’. 

But he said the health service needs more cash to address the ‘long term fault lines which have built up over the last decade’ and been exacerbated by Covid.

The health service has ‘huge’ workforce shortages, with 110,000 vacancies, nearly three-quarters of staff believe there are not enough medics for them to do their job properly and there are ongoing problems in social care, Mr Hopson said. 

‘Until these fault lines are properly addressed, the NHS is going to remain under real pressure,’ he added. 

Dr Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust, said patients face ‘frightening levels of suffering’.

She said ‘significant bottlenecks in A&E units’ means patients are waiting in pain for record lengths of time, to be given a bed and for ambulances to reach them.

‘It’s almost unthinkable that one in ten emergency patients waited over 2 hours for an ambulance which should take 18 minutes,’ Dr Scobie added.

Covid pressures ‘will inevitably slow down the effectiveness of the Government’s elective recovery plan’, she said.

‘It is hard to imagine an end in sight, with lengthy waits for healthcare firmly here to stay,’ Dr Scobie added. 

Queues for routine operations are expected to peak in 2024 at around 10.7million in the most pessimistic scenario, modelling from the NHS shows. It is because the health service expects many patients who missed operations to now come forward for care

Queues for routine operations are expected to peak in 2024 at around 10.7million in the most pessimistic scenario, modelling from the NHS shows. It is because the health service expects many patients who missed operations to now come forward for care

Other estimates showed up to 200,000 people could still be on waiting lists for more than a year by 2025 under the most pessimistic scenario. This was despite Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying year-long waits would end by this date

Other estimates showed up to 200,000 people could still be on waiting lists for more than a year by 2025 under the most pessimistic scenario. This was despite Health Secretary Sajid Javid saying year-long waits would end by this date

It comes as hospital doctors warned high Covid infection rates means routine surgery is not going ahead as planned.

Professor Neil Mortensen, head of the Royal College of Surgeons, told the Guardian that planned surgery is being ‘cancelled again in different parts of the country due to staff being off sick with the virus’.

He said: ‘This is understandably frustrating for surgical teams who want to help their patients by getting planned surgery up and running again. It’s also very distressing for patients who need a planned operation.’

WHAT DO THE LATEST NHS PERFORMANCE FIGURES SHOW? 

The overall waiting list has jumped to 6.2million. This is up from 6.1million in January and is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

There were 23,281 people waiting more than two years to start treatment at the end of February, down slightly from January but nine times more than April 2021.

The number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment was 299,478 in February, down from 311,528 the previous month.

A record 22,506 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in March. The figure is up from 16,404 in February and is the highest for any calendar month since record began in 2010.

A total of 136,297 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in March, another all-time high. 

Just 71.6 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at A&Es last month, the lowest percentage ever recorded. NHS standards set out that 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour window.

The average category one response time – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and 35 seconds.

This is up from eight minutes and 51 seconds in February and is the longest average response time since current records began in August 2017. 

Ambulances took an average of one hour, one minute and three seconds last month to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. 

This is up from 42 minutes and seven seconds in February and is the longest time on record for this category of call-outs. 

Response times for category three calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged three hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds.

This is up from two hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds in February and is again a record.  

NHS leaders say the cancellations and reduced capacity due to the virus mean the backlog targets — which Boris Johnson called the ‘biggest catch-up programme in the history of the health service’ — may be unachievable.

Along with eradicating one and two-year waits, ministers promised 65-week waits would be scrapped by March 2024, 9million more checks and tests would be performed by March 2025 and the waiting list would peak in March 2024.

Mr Hopson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there are 20,000 medically-fit patients who cannot be discharged due to pressures on social care. 

Ahead of the NHS figures being released, he said: ‘We are under huge amounts of pressure, so I think we’ll also see in today’s figures increases in ambulance response times and in the number of people waiting more than 12 hours to be seen in accident and emergency.’

Mr Hopson added: ‘The immediate problem has basically been that we were hoping that the Omicron surge would have tailed off and that we could hit top speed on care backlog recovery.

‘Instead what we’ve seen is the number of people with Covid in hospital double from 8,200 six weeks ago to 16,400 at the start of this week.

‘We’ve got 70,000 staff off, 40 per cent of them with Covid, and we’ve got 20,000 medically fit patients that we can’t discharge because of the massive increase in pressures on social care, again, significantly driven by Covid.’

Latest Covid figures for England show 1,909 infected patients were admitted to hospitals on Monday, down 11.9 per cent from the 2,164 hospitalisations one week earlier.

And 15,399 virus patients were in hospital beds by yesterday morning, seven per cent fewer than seven days before, when 16,587 infected people were being cared for.

But official figures show less than half of these were primarily admitted because they were unwell with the virus. Instead, they were hospitalised for a different ailment and also tested positive. 

It comes as separate NHS dats shows dozens of patients in England have waited more than three years for routine surgery.

At least nine have been on the NHS waiting list for over four years and 93 have been waiting for at least three, according to figures from 69 hospital trusts. There are around 250 trusts in total in England, meaning the figures may be just the tip of the iceberg. 

Leading surgeons warned the ‘shocking’ figures are people are left in ‘real emotional and physical distress’, while patients said they feel ‘forgotten’ and have been left in ‘soul destroying’ pain. 

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, has said these figures show ‘huge problems’ in emergency ambulance times.

He told Sky News: ‘There’s nothing that we would like to do more in the NHS than to make inroads into this backlog and indeed, what you’ve seen in recent months is very high activity levels in the NHS.

‘The problem is that we have still got Covid and that makes a significant impact on what we can do in the health service.

‘So we have 16,000 people with Covid in hospitals in England and that puts pressure on a system which has always been always working flat out, that’s the nature of our health service, we have fewer beds per population than similar countries and fewer nurses, doctors.

‘So we’re always using our resources at full stretch and then if you add in this Covid spike, then it becomes very difficult.’ 

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