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Surgeons: NHS ‘under pressure from all sides’ as waiting list reaches record 7 million

13 Oct 2022

The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) has warned the NHS is ‘under pressure from all sides’, as the waiting list for hospital treatment reaches 7 million for the first time ever.

RCS England is calling on government to speed up its programme to create surgical hubs in every area needs, to build ring-fenced capacity where planned surgery can keep going. Surgeons say a multi-pronged approach is needed, with investment in hubs and also staff, particularly in anaesthetics and theatre nurses.

Today’s statistics show progress on reducing the longest waits.  2,646 people were waiting more than two years for hospital treatment in August 2022, down from 23,778 in January 2022 (the all-time high).  However, with more people referred than treated, the total waiting list continues to rise month on month, and today reached a record 7 million. 

Mr Tim Mitchell, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: 

“Despite the very great efforts of NHS staff, the health service still hasn’t managed to return to pre-pandemic activity levels. The system was already running hot before the advent of Covid. The NHS is now under pressure from all sides.

“In surgery, we find operations can’t go ahead because there is a shortage of anaesthetic and nursing staff, there aren’t enough theatres, or there aren’t hospital beds for our patients to go afterwards. There are pressures at both the front and back door. Huge numbers of patients come in through A&E and end up in beds earmarked for planned operations. 

“Tackling the backlog requires a multi-pronged approach. First and foremost, we’d like to see Government speed up the programme to build surgical hubs, to create one in every area. This protects surgery from emergency pressures and ensures as many operations as possible can go ahead. There also needs to be a plan for addressing gaps in the workforce, particularly in anaesthetics and theatre nursing.”  


Notes to editors

1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS England) is a professional membership organisation and registered charity. The College provides world-class education, assessment and development to more than 28,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. The College sets professional standards, facilitates research and champions the best outcomes for patients – with a vision to see excellent surgical care for everyone.

2.  NHS performance statistics published today are available here:

3. For more information, please contact the Press Office:

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