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The waiting game: Surgeons call on government to publish workforce plan as waiting list hits record 7.4 million

08 Jun 2023

Surgeons are turning up the heat on the government this summer to deliver its NHS workforce plan without further delay. Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Professor Fiona Myint, said the dangerous waiting game for its publication has set warning bells ringing louder than ever before.

“Every extra day of the delay on the strategy to increase the number of doctors and nurses will make slashing record hospital waiting lists all the more difficult, despite the herculean effort by NHS staff,” she said.

“The time is now to deliver a workforce plan to tackle the chronic staff shortages impeding the day-to-day running of the NHS and the waiting list at a record high of 7.4 million people.”

NHS performance data published today (8 June) shows the waiting list for NHS consultant-led hospital treatment grew again to 7,415,352 in April 2023.

Waits of over 18 months increased slightly to 11,477 patients, meaning the target to eliminate waits of 78 weeks by April 2023 remains missed. Attention will now turn to the target to clear waits of over 65 weeks by April 2024. At the end of April 2023, there were 95,135 patients waiting more than 65 weeks.

Patients waiting for operations such as hip and knee replacements and general surgical operations such as gallbladder removals and hernia repairs are still waiting the longest. Today’s figures show, 807,919 patients waiting for Trauma & Orthopaedics, 601,568 waiting for Ear, Nose & Throat treatment, and 447,215 waiting for General Surgery.

Professor Myint said the time is now for the NHS workforce plan so that there will be the staff to support the running of surgical hubs in the future. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, promised last year that an NHS workforce plan would be published by the spring.

She added, “There has been good progress in setting up surgical hubs and we have seen the real impact they can have on bringing down waiting lists in the areas that have them. As more come on stream, we need to be sure that they will be adequately staffed, without pulling resources away from emergency departments. In particular, we need more theatre nurses and anaesthetists.”

It has been almost 12 months since the Royal College of Surgeons of England published The Case for Surgical Hubs. In the joint report with The Strategy Unit, the Royal College of Surgeons of England made seven recommendations to government to support surgical hubs and help tackle the record NHS waiting list.


Notes to editors:

  1. NHS performance statistics on referral to treatment waiting times published today are available here:
  2. We have taken into account estimates for missing data in April 2023 for consultant-led Referral to Treatment (RTT) waiting times.
  3.  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 career. 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.
  4. 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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