Record-breaking waiting lists alarm surgeons

Surgeons have reacted with ‘grave concern’ at the latest NHS waiting list figures showing that more than two million people have been waiting over the statutory 18 weeks for NHS hospital treatment.*

Figures last week also report a record total waiting list, with six million patients waiting for consultant-led hospital treatment – the highest figure since records began in August 2007.

The number of patients waiting over two years for hospital treatment has increased to a record 18,585, an increase of 14.5% on the previous month, when 16,225 people were waiting over two years.  

Longest waits are for trauma and orthopaedic treatment (3,967), followed by general surgery (2,326) and ENT treatment (2,263).

Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: ‘NHS staff have been working tirelessly to deliver planned surgery and treatment despite the many difficulties imposed by Covid measures in our hospitals. However, we are gravely concerned that more than 2 million people in England have not been treated within the national standard of 18 weeks.’ 

The data relates to November, before Omicron hit NHS services, so the college warned the figures were likely to be even worse.  

Prof Mortensen added that the figures gave a worrying indication of just how long it was going to take to recover from the pandemic.

He said: ‘We are also calling on the Government to publish their delayed Elective Recovery Plan. This needs to give clear direction on the longer- term transformation needed to tackle the waiting list, including, crucially, establishing surgical hubs across the country.’

* NHS performance statistics are available here: