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‘Waiting list hits record 6.6 million as winter pressures continue into summer’

14 Jul 2022

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has called for a surgical hub to be created in every area of the country to speed up patients’ access to planned surgery, as the NHS waiting list hits a record 6.61 million.

Significant progress has been made in reducing two year waits.  Data published today by NHS England show 8,028 people were waiting more than two years for hospital treatment in May 2022, down from 23,778 in January 2022 (the all-time high).

However, NHS England’s monthly Referral to Treatment (RTT) statistics also reveal that the waiting list has risen overall, to a record high of 6.61 million. One-year waits also remain high, with 331,623 people waiting for consultant-led hospital treatment in May 2022, compared to 323,093 in April 2022. 

Hospitals are grappling with pressures usually seen in the depths of winter. Many trusts in England are on the ‘highest alert level’ due to high attendances in accident and emergency departments and delayed hospitals discharges.  With high rates of COVID-19, staff absences are another issue, and this week we expect a rise in people needing treatment for heatstroke.

To get through the backlog of hospital treatment, the NHS needs to achieve higher levels of activity than in the pre-COVID years.  The aim was to achieve 10% more this year.  However, data we published earlier this week in a new report, The Case for Surgical Hubs, show the NHS is not yet back to pre-pandemic activity levels. 

Miss Fiona Myint, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

“Whether it’s winter pressures in the middle of summer or heatwaves we’re wrestling with, demands on hospitals keep growing.   We’ve made progress on the longest waiters, but the total waiting list just gets larger month by month. Our new report shows that surgical hubs have played an important role in reducing waits for surgery, and we need more of them.  We urge government to work with the new Integrated Care Boards to check every region is making plans for increased surgical provision. It is vital that trusts can use the elective recovery funding to establish hubs in areas that need them.”

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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