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Surgeons urge the government to accept the amendment to the Health and Care Bill, as the waiting list hits a record 6.18 million

14 Apr 2022

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has urged the UK government to accept the workforce amendment to the Health and Care Bill to ease pressures on frontline NHS staff, as new figures show the waiting list has reached a record 6.18 million.

Mr Tim Mitchell, a consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon and Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, commented as NHS England’s monthly Referral to Treatment statistics were published today. The data show the total number of people waiting for consultant-led NHS hospital treatment increased by 80,000 from 6.10 million in January 2022 to 6.18 million in February 2022.

The figures also reveal the number of patients waiting more than 2 years for consultant-led hospital treatment has decreased – from 23,778 in January 2022 to 23,281 in February 2022.  The longest waits for treatment of more than two years were for Trauma and Orthopaedic treatment – such as hip and knee replacements (5,460), followed by Ear Nose and Throat treatment (3,033), followed by General Surgery – such as gallbladder removals and hernia operations (2,614). 

Mr Mitchell said: “Unfortunately, as we enter the Bank Holiday weekend, COVID-19 continues to disrupt planned NHS care.  We have heard from our surgeons that operations are being cancelled again in different parts of the country, due to patients testing positive for the virus and high numbers of staff being unable to come to work because they, too, have tested positive. This is very distressing for patients who need an operation and it’s understandably frustrating for surgical teams who want to help their patients by getting planned surgery up and running again. 

“There are 110,000 vacancies3 in the NHS and this is adding pressures to an already overstretched workforce. We need to make sure there are enough staff now and in the future to meet patient demand and to tackle the backlog. The best way for the government to do this would be to accept the workforce amendment to the Health and Care Bill. It is backed by 100 organisations and the House of Lords.”

The amendment would require the UK government to publish, every three years, an independent assessment of workforce numbers for health and social care in England which looks ahead to the next 5,10 and 15 years. The Bill has been accepted by the House of Lords and it will now go back to the House of Commons for a second time when MPs return from Easter recess.

Mr Mitchell added: “The NHS is creating surgical hubs, which separate planned care from emergency admissions. These will help hospitals to keep planned surgery going, even if there are further outbreaks of the virus. However, we would like to see at least one hub in every region of the country. We would also encourage everyone who is eligible to take up the opportunity of a booster jab, as we are not out of the woods yet from the pandemic.”

Notes to editors

1.  NHS performance statistics published today are available here:

2.  Data on staff absences due to COVID can be viewed here: Statistics » Urgent and Emergency Care Daily Situation Reports 2021-22 (


4. 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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