NHS waiting list hits ANOTHER high amid Covid-fuelled crisis


The number of patients waiting for routine hospital treatment in England has soared to a new record of 6.18million, as ambulance and emergency department waits reach all-time highs.

NHS data shows one in nine people in the country are waiting, often in pain, for elective operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts surgery.

The figures show a record 6.18million were in the queue by February, up from 6.1million in January. But the more than 23,000 patients waiting more than one year and the nearly 300,000 who have been in the queue for over two years are down slightly from one month earlier.

Separate data shows A&E performance plummeted to its worst ever level in November, with a record 22,506 people waiting more than 12 hours to be treated — three times longer than the NHS target. And just seven in 10 patients were seen within four hours, marking the lowest level recorded.

And 999 data shows heart attack and stroke patients were left waiting for more than an hour for paramedics to arrive — the slowest time recorded.

Health bosses argue the NHS has faced its busiest ever winter and the drop among the longest waiters show it is tackling the backlog.

Leaders said the health service needs more cash to fill its 110,000 vacancies and ongoing problems in social care, or the NHS will remain ‘under real pressure’.

It comes as doctors today record-high Covid infection are leading to operations being cancelled across England, despite daily admissions and the number of infected patients in hospital trending downwards.

The record 6.18million people in the backlog in February is 46 per cent higher than the 4.2million people in England stuck in the queue in March 2020, before the pandemic wreaked havoc across the country.

The figure is also 1.3 per cent higher than the 6.1million from January.

Some 3.8million of those in the queue have been waiting for at least four months, while 2.3million have been waiting for more than four months — both of which are higher than one month earlier.

But the 299,478 who have been waiting for more than a year is 12,050 patients (four per cent) fewer than January levels.

And the 23,281 patients forced to wait for more than two years is 497 (two per cent) less than one month earlier.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid in March set out the ambition to eliminate all waits of more than two years, except when it is the patient’s choice, by July 2022, while no patients will be waiting longer than one year by March 2025.

Separate A&E data from the health services shows 2.1million people attended A&E in March, up by a fifth on February.

A record 22,506 people had to wait more than 12 hours in March from a decision to admit to actually being admitted.

The number is up from 16,404 in February, signalling a 37 per cent month-on-month jump, and is the highest since records began in August 2010.

A total of 136,297 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in March, another all-time high.

Just 71.6 per cent of patients in England were seen within four hours at A&Es last month, the lowest percentage in records going back to November 2010.

NHS standards set out that at least 95 per cent of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, but this has not been met nationally since 2015.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said: ‘Nobody should be under any illusion about how tough a job NHS staff have on their hands, balancing competing priorities and maintaining high quality patient care.

‘Despite pressure on various fronts and the busiest winter ever for the NHS, long waits fell as staff continue to tackle two-year waits by July thanks to the innovative approaches to care they are now adopting – from same day hip replacements to dedicated mobile hubs for operations.

‘As ever, if you need help, especially over the often busy bank holiday weekend, please do come forward for the care you need through NHS 111 online and if it’s an emergency, dial 999 or go to your nearest A&E.’

Ambulance data shows medics took an average of one hour, one minute and three seconds last month to respond to emergency calls, such as heart attacks, strokes, burns and epilepsy.

This is up from 42 minutes and seven seconds in February and is the longest time on record for category two 999 call-outs.

Response times to category one calls — life-threatening incidents including cardiac and respiratory arrest — jumped to nine minutes and 35 seconds — the highest ever recorded and up from eight minutes and 51 seconds in February.

The time taken for medics to respond to urgent but not immediately life-threatening 999 calls — such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes — averaged three hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds.

Source: The Dailymail