October 25, 2021

NHS waiting lists: Backlog hits record high with nearly six million awaiting treatment in England

October 14, 2021

Nearly six million people in England are waiting to start routine hospital treatment - a record high.

Figures from NHS England showed that 5.7 million people were on waiting lists at the end of August, which is the highest figure since records began in August 2007.

Of those, some 9,754 people had been waiting more than two years to begin hospital treatment, more than three times the 2,722 people who were waiting longer than two years in April.

Among them are people awaiting hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery.

A&E waiting times of more than 12 hours at record levels as health secretary fails to address GPs - COVID latest

NHS England has told hospitals to eliminate all waits of more than two years by March 2022.

Meanwhile, the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at 292,138 in August, down slightly from 293,102 the previous month.

However, it was more than double the number waiting a year earlier, in August 2020, which was 111,026.

Hip and knee replacements are in the category of planned surgery that has been worst affected and slowest to restart over the last year, all too often considered not serious or life-altering enough to be front of the queue.

Tracey Loftis, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Versus Arthritis, told Sky News: "People with arthritis' lives are being destroyed as they languish on waiting lists. Those who desperately wait to receive treatment are paying the price both physically and financially, with many being left in agonising pain, unable to work or leave their homes.

"We need to see the government tackle the surgery backlog and that means protected funding to bring down the numbers waiting for joint replacements," she added.

"But people still won't get treatment overnight, so we must also see a commitment to provide urgent support for the hundreds of thousands of people with arthritis awaiting surgery."

NHS England said that a record 5,025 people had to wait more than 12 hours at A&Es in England last month from a decision to admit to actually being admitted, which is the highest since records began in August 2010.

Around 104,875 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission itself - also the highest monthly total on record.

Official figures showed that A&E attendances in England last month were 26% higher than the same time last year, though this is a reflection of lower-than-usual numbers for September 2020, which were affected by the pandemic.

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A total of 2.1 million attendances were recorded in September 2021, up from 1.7 million in September 2020.

The equivalent figure for September 2019, a non-pandemic year, was also 2.1 million.

The latest NHS England figures on urgent cancer referrals show that 210,931 were made by GPs in England in August, up 24% from the 170,036 reported in August last year.

The equivalent figure for pre-pandemic August 2019 was 200,317.

Urgent breast cancer referrals were also up in August to 11,179, compared to 9,486 in August last year.

Despite the pressures, and concern over an impending winter of COVID and flu admissions, people are being urged to seek treatment if needed - and to get their vaccinations if they haven't already.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: "Despite the busiest September on record, NHS staff have moved heaven and earth to make the best possible use of additional investment delivering millions more tests, checks, treatments and operations.

"That is why it is really important people do not delay seeking help from the NHS if they feel unwell."

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