Leicester Mercury

NHS waiting list at 12-year high


THE number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment continues to rise, new figures show.

Across England, 139,545 people had waited more than 52 weeks to start treatment as of September this year – the highest number for any calendar month since September 2008.

In September 2019, the figure was just 1,305.

The data from NHS England also shows 1.72 million people were waiting more than 18 weeks to start treatment in September.

This is down from 1.96 million in August, but is up sharply on the equivalent figure for September 2019 of 672,112.

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was also down 27% in September compared with a year ago.

Some 209,562 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, down from 288,230 in September 2019.

The year-on-year decrease recorded in August was 43%, and in July the drop was 55%.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at the King’s Fund, said staff were working hard to meet the health needs of people with and without Covid-19.

But he said it was “already clear that hospitals are having to prioritise the sickest patients and once again delay some planned procedures”.

He added: “With nearly 140,000 people now waiting over a year for care and the worst of winter yet to come, it’s clear the NHS won’t be back to ‘normal’ any time soon.

“Even before the pandemic, waiting times were slipping as the NHS faced a workforce crisis with more than 40,000 nursing posts vacant.

“For the NHS to have any chance of substantia­lly reducing waiting times for patients before the end of this parliament, it will need significan­t long-term investment to grow and support its workforce in line with the Government’s manifesto commitment­s to increase the number of doctors, nurses and other staff.”

Yesterday’s data also showed that 400,000 patients in England had been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in September.

A total of 420,445 patients were waiting for one of 15 standard tests, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscop­y. The equivalent number in September 2019 was 38,750.

The number has fallen in recent month after peaking at 571,459 in May.

Accident and emergency attendance­s at hospitals in England continued to be below levels of a year ago.

A total of 1.6 million attendance­s were recorded in October, down 26% from 2.2 million in the same month of 2019.

NHS England said the fall is “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response”, suggesting people are still staying away from A&E department­s because of the coronaviru­s outbreak.

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