Latest NHS performance figures have prompted a renewed call from private hospital providers to take on more patients from the health service.
David Furness, director of policy at the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), said the NHS’s 7.19m waiting list underlined the need for all parts of the healthcare system to work together to tackle the backlog.
He urged the NHS to use ‘all the tools in its armoury’ to ensure patients can access the treatment they need.
Mr Furness added: ‘This includes making greater use of the independent sector and bolstering patient choice – key factors in getting NHS waiting times down in the 2000s – and we welcome the Government’s recently announced taskforce to look at this very issue and ensure that the capacity and capability available in the independent sector is being fully utilised for the benefit of NHS patients.’
NHS figures show the total number of people waiting for consultant-led NHS hospital treatment has fallen for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 7.19m on the list in November 2022 compared to 7.21m in October.
The most common long-waits seen were for:
Trauma and orthopaedic treatment, such as hip and knee replacements: 242,785 – 31%;
ENT treatment: 60,891 – 11%;
General surgery: 108,197– 25%.
Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, called the task ahead ‘gargantuan’.
He said: ‘In some areas, surgeons are telling us that they are dealing with more complex cases, more frequently, as patients’ conditions deteriorate while on long waiting lists.’
At the Prime Minister’s NHS Recovery Forum in January, he made the case again for more surgical hubs to be set up as quickly as possible.
Prof Mortensen added: ‘The Government must look at where surgical hubs feature in the New Hospital Programme, and work with integrated care systems to identify under-served parts of the country.
‘Unless the Government moves fast on this, and the workforce plan it has promised, I fear the waiting list will take many years to bring down.’