Surgeons demand waiting lists be made top priority

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is urging the Government to make waiting times its top priority, as new figures show the NHS waiting list has surpassed 5m for the first time.  

In a summary of statistics for April 2021, it said:

  • A record 5.12m people were awaiting hospital treatment;
  • For the first time the statistics show some patients are waiting more than two years for treatment, in the wake of Covid-19; 
  • Across England, 2,722 people are waiting two years or more;
  • The most common long waits are for trauma and orthopaedic treatment (516 people) followed by general surgery patients (312), such as gallbladder and hernia operations; 
  • 246 people were waiting two years or more for ear, nose or throat treatment. 

Mr Tim Mitchell

College vice-president Mr Tim Mitchell said: ‘Surgery in many hospitals is almost at pre-pandemic levels, thanks to staff working Saturdays and evenings to catch up, even though many of them are exhausted from the experience of the last year. 

‘Tackling this gigantic backlog requires new investment both in staff and infrastructure. The NHS needs a “New Deal for Surgery. 

‘We are calling for the creation of specialist surgical hubs in every region, and a five-year funding plan that extends the ‘Elective Recovery Fund’. There is no quick fix, but we must aim to get back to delivering timely surgery. 

‘Government needs to make waiting times their top priority and allocate funding both for surgical hubs and to training and supporting more surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists.’

The College’s New Deal report, published last month, urges the Government to commit an additional £1bn for surgery every year for the next five years. It also urges adoption of a longer-term aim to increase the number of hospital beds and doctors to reach the OECD average.