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NHS waiting list still stuck at over 7 million

12 Jan 2023

NHS figures published today show the total number of people waiting for consultant-led NHS hospital treatment has fallen for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with 7.19 million on the list in November 2022.

This is a small drop from the previous month, October 2022, when there were 7.21 million people waiting for consultant-led hospital treatment. However, thanks to the efforts of NHS staff, some progress has been made reducing 18-month waits. This has dropped below 50,000, with 48,961 patients waiting 18 months (78 weeks) or more for consultant-led hospital treatment. The government’s Elective Recovery Plan has a target to eliminate NHS waits of over 18 months (78 weeks), by April 2023.

The most common long-waits seen were for Trauma and Orthopaedic treatment – such as hip and knee replacements (242,785 - 31%), Ear Nose and Throat treatment (60,891 - 11%), or General Surgery – such as gallbladder removals and hernia operations (108,197- 25%).

Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

“There is a glimmer of good news in today’s data – thanks to the efforts of NHS staff, the number of long waits has come down. However, the total waiting list is still stuck at over 7 million. The task before us remains gargantuan.

“For those patients still on the lists, their lives, and sometimes livelihoods, remain on hold while they wait for their operation and the relief from pain that it will bring. In some areas, surgeons are telling us that they are dealing with more complex cases, more frequently, as patients’ conditions deteriorate while on long waiting lists

“At the Prime Minister’s NHS Recovery Forum this weekend, I made the case again for more surgical hubs to be set up, as quickly as possible. While we welcome the Prime Minister’s renewed focus on waiting times, and extra funding to help discharge patients, the task of getting waiting times down to a reasonable level remains mammoth. The Government must look at where surgical hubs feature in the New Hospital Programme, and work with ICS’ to identify under-served parts of the country. Unless the Government moves fast on this, and the workforce plan it has promised, I fear the waiting list will take many years to bring down.”


Notes to editors

  1. NHS performance statistics published today are available here:
  2.  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.
  3. For more information, please contact the Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6052/6055 Email: Out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056.

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