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Surgeons say new figures show ‘mountain to climb’ on waiting lists

08 Oct 2020

Commenting on new waiting times figures released today by NHS England, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Professor Neil Mortensen said:

“Today’s data show what a mountain the NHS has to climb to get on top of the immense backlog of planned operations, with more than 100,000 people now having waited longer than a year for treatment. 

“Huge efforts are being made to keep in touch with patients, monitor their conditions and to get surgical services going again after the COVID stoppage. It is welcome to see a slight drop in the number of patients who have waited longer than 18 weeks, reflecting what Trusts are doing to get people seen and treated. 

“But the continued recovery of surgical services cannot be taken for granted.  Winter pressures from a flu outbreak, along with a resurging incidence of coronavirus, will put the fragile recovery of planned surgery at risk.  Action is needed right now to ensure staff are COVID-tested regularly, and beds are ring-fenced for patients who really need their operation. 

“It is also of critical importance that patients continue to come forward to their GPs for referral if they are unwell; early detection of disease always makes for more effective treatment, so people must not be deterred because they know waiting lists are long.”


Notes to editors

  1. 111,026 people had waited 52 weeks or more for an operation in August 2020, the highest number since September 2008, when the figure was 144,213
  2. The number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks dropped slightly from 2,151,443 in July 2020, to 1,959,684 in August 2020. However, this is still the second highest figure on record after last month.
  3. 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.
  4. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052. Email:  For out-of-hours media enquiries: 020 7869 6056

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