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NHS waiting list in England hits record 7.7 million

14 Sep 2023

Surgeons have warned that patients left to wait months and months for treatment may see their health deteriorate further as a result of the peak in NHS waiting lists.

NHS performance data published today (14 September) shows the waiting list for NHS consultant-led hospital treatment increased to another record high. There were 7,679,851 people on the waiting list at the end of July 2023. Patients will be waiting for treatment ranging from hip replacements to surgery to remove cancerous tumours.

Mr Tim Mitchell, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said, “With the NHS facing record waiting lists while preparing for yet another difficult winter, the £200 million in funding from government to support services through peak months, alongside £40 million for increased social care capacity, is welcome and will help. That said, the task remains mammoth, and lives continue to be impacted.”

Mr Mitchell pointed to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) annual survey of hospital inpatients published earlier this week, which found two in five people admitted to hospital for planned care in England last year had their health worsen while they were on waiting lists. He said the performance data, alongside the CQC’s findings, serve as “a stark reminder of the challenges faced by patients.”  

He added, “NHS staff continue to do all that they can to reduce waiting lists amid extremely challenging circumstances. The latest jump is disappointing but not unexpected, as increased demand, record staff vacancies and industrial action continue to hamper recovery efforts.” 

Talking about the impact of long waits on patients, Mr Mitchell said, “Many lives will be impacted by longer waiting times, whether that be through an inability to work while waiting for treatment, suffering in pain, or deteriorating health. Long waits may also lead to the need for more complex operations when patients finally receive treatment.”

He further added, “We need continued investment in surgical hubs, which are separate from emergency services in hospitals and allow tests and operations to continue in one place, unaffected by increased pressure in other parts of the hospital. There has been good progress in setting these up since the pandemic.  We’d like to see one in every area of the country, particularly those facing the longest waiting lists.”


Notes to editors:

  1. NHS performance statistics on referral to treatment waiting times published today are available here:
  1. The Care Quality Commission’s annual survey of hospital inpatients is available here:
  1. Further information on winter funding from the Department of Health and Social Care:
  1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England provides world-class education, assessment, and development to 30,000 surgeons, dental professionals, and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their careers. Our vision is to see excellent surgical care for everyone. We do this by setting professional standards, facilitating research and championing the best outcomes for patients.
  1. For more information, please contact the Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6053/6054/6047; Email:; Out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056.

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