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5% increase in the total number of patients waiting for planned treatment

09 Jun 2017

NHS England performance data published today for April 2017 shows that there has been a 5% increase in the total number of patients waiting for planned treatment since April 2016. There were 3.78 million people on the waiting list at the end of April 2017 compared to 3.60 million in the same month last year. The number of delayed days also rose from 168,018 in April 2016 to 177,137 in April 2017 – a 5.43% increase. 

At the end of March, NHS England announced it was removing the 18-week waiting time target for planned surgery from its list of priorities for the next 12 months. Waiting times for April 2017 are the first impacted by this announcement. At the end of April 2017 89.9% of patients had been waiting less than 18 weeks, missing the 92% target.  

The Royal College of Surgeons recently reported a 180% rise in the number of patients waiting longer than six months for treatment in the four years since March 2013, when waits were at their lowest level. Today’s figures show the number of patients waiting more than six months (26 weeks) for treatment increased from 126,188 in March 2017 to 136,030 in April 2017. This is a 179.5% increase on April 2013, when there were 48,668 patients on the list.

The number of nine-month (39 weeks) waiters has also increased from 19,838 in March 2017 to 21,917 in April 2017. This is an increase of 229.2% from April 2013, when the number was 6,658.

Responding to the increase in patients waiting for planned treatment, Miss Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: 

“These figures show the total number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for planned treatment has risen again in April 2017. Too many patients are waiting excessively long for surgery and our concern is we will only see the situation worsen as the impact of NHS England’s decision to deprioritise the 18-week waiting time target takes hold.  NHS Improvement’s own forecasts put waiting lists at 5.5 million by March 2019 in worst-case scenarios.

“There is a potent mix of issues sending waiting times in the wrong direction. The NHS is treating more patients than ever before but there is also huge financial pressure and hospitals are running short of space. Despite medical advances enabling more surgery to take place without an overnight hospital stay, reductions in beds numbers have now gone too far. The lack of social care funding is resulting in frail, older patients staying longer in hospital when they should and indeed want to be moved back into community care.

“The next Government has an opportunity to look again at waiting times and we are keen to work with them to prioritise access to elective care, particularly by protecting bed capacity in hospitals. The Prime Minister rightly identified social care as an area needing much improvement and we hope any new funding arrangement here will help to reduce the pressure on the NHS and also improve waiting times. We urge the Prime Minister to press ahead with reform as soon as possible.” 

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

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