NHS planning target for patients waiting to start consultant-led hospital treatment missed
09 May 2019
The number of people waiting to start planned, consultant-led hospital treatment was 4.23 million in March 2019, 10% higher than the same period last year (3.84 million), official figures show. This means NHS Commissioners and hospitals have failed to meet a key target set in NHS England and NHS Improvement’s planning guidance for 2018/192.
The planning guidance, Refreshing NHS Plansfor 2018/19, published in February 2018, stated that commissioners and providers were to plan on the basis that their referral to treatment (RTT) waiting list, measured as the number of patients on an incomplete pathway, would be no higher in March 2019 than in March 2018, and that where possible they should aim to be reduced.
NHS England RTT statistics for March 2019 also show the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks to start planned treatment was 562, 981. Only 86.7% were seen within 18 weeks, meaning the government’s 92% target has not been met in over three years – since February 2016. There were 491,102 patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for planned treatment in March 2018.
There has however been an improvement in the number of patients waiting over a year (52 weeks) to start planned treatment. Planning guidance stated that, nationally, the number of patients waiting more than 52 weeks for treatment should be halved by March 2019, when compared to March 2018. This target has been exceeded, with 1,154 patients waiting more than 52 weeks in March 2019, compared to 2,755 in March 2018.
There were 21,956 operations cancelled at the last minute during January – March 2019. This equates to 1.1% of total admissions. In addition, 9.8% of patients who had their operation cancelled did not have their treatment rearranged with 28 days.
Responding to the data published today, Professor Derek Alderson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “With 4.23 million people on the waiting list in March 2019, it is clear hospitals have missed the NHS planning guidance target by some way. It further emphasises the struggle NHS hospitals have faced in tackling the backlog that built up in the first few months of last year. While it is good news that the number of patients waiting over a year to start treatment has more than halved over the last year, there are still far too many waiting longer than the Government’s 18-week target. Waiting for surgery can be a very anxious time for patients and their families, especially when their condition might prevent them from working or looking after themselves. There is also the risk that they become more ill while they wait. It’s hard to see the waiting list decreasing in any significant way without a clear plan. That is why the RCS is calling for a 5-year plan – with a commitment to increase hospital beds - to properly deal with the backlog of patients waiting for treatment.”
Notes to editors
- Full data is available here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/combined-performance-summary/
- NHS England and NHS Improvement’s document Refreshing NHS Plans for 2018/19 states: “…Commissioners and providers should plan on the basis that their RTT waiting list, measured as the number of patients on an incomplete pathway, will be no higher in March 2019 than in March 2018 and, where possible, they should aim for it to be reduced. Numbers nationally of patients waiting more than 52 weeks for treatment should be halved by March 2019, and locally eliminated wherever possible.”
- 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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