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Record waiting times published: surgeons call for new government to make good on election promises for the NHS

13 Dec 2019

Commenting on new waiting times statistics published by NHS England today, which show the largest ever number of people on the waiting list, Sue Hill, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said,

“In his victory speech last night, the first priority Mr Johnson talked about after Brexit, was the NHS. Today’s record waiting list figures show how urgently additional support for the NHS is needed.  We see today the largest ever number of people on the waiting list - 4.45 million. 

“The investment in staff, in hospitals and in the service as a whole, cannot come soon enough.  We urge the new government to use its substantial parliamentary majority to enact the promises made during the election to the NHS. 

“The government must restore the right patients have to timely treatment. What’s more it makes sense for the whole country. We are talking about essential operations that relieve pain, improve mobility and help people get back to work. It’s time to reverse a decade of under-investment in our treasured NHS, and make good on the election promises.”

NHS England’s monthly performance statistics for October (and A&E data for November) were published today. They report:

  • There were 4.45 million patients on the waiting list for treatment in October 2019. This is the highest number since these figures were first reported, in August 2007.
  • Only 84.7% of patients were seen within 18 weeks to start treatment in October 2019, against the statutory target of 92%. This was marginally worse than the previous month (84.8%) and below the same month last year (87.1%). This is the worst performance in 11 years.
  • Over 681,624 patients were waiting over 18 weeks for treatment in October 2019. This is the highest since May 2008, when the figure was 768,383.
  • The number of patients waiting over 52 weeks for treatment has continued to fall by approximately 53% since the same period last year with 1,321 patients waiting in October 2019 compared to 2,815 in October 2018.
  • Notably, there was an increase of almost 7,000 in the number of patients waiting over 9 months for treatment, when compared to the same period last year.
  • 71.3% of patients were seen within 4 hours at major A&E departments (excluding pilot sites) in November 2019. This was worse than the previous month (74.5%) and far below the same period last year (81.2%).
  • There were 152,522 delayed days relating to delayed transfers of care in October 2019. This was a sharp increase on the previous month.

Notes to editors

  1. Full waiting times data is 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 RCS press office: telephone: 020 7869 6047; email:; out-of-hours media enquiries: 07966 486832.
  4. Boris Johnson’s victory speech extract (relating to the NHS):
  5. And at the same time this One Nation Conservative Government will massively increase our investment in the NHS - the health service that represents the very best of our country - with this single beautiful idea that whoever we are, rich, poor, young, old, the NHS is there for us when we are sick.  Everyday that service performs miracles. And that is why the NHS is this One Nation Conservative’s Government’s top priority. And so we will train 50,000 more nurses, and 50 million more GP surgery appointments, and how many new hospitals?... We will deliver a long-term NHS budget enshrined in law with £650 million extra every week. And all the other priorities that you, the people of this country voted for…”

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