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More than 2 million people waiting longer than statutory 18 weeks for NHS treatment

13 Jan 2022

Total waiting list hits another record of 6 million
• Number of patients waiting over two years for hospital treatment reaches a record 18,585

The Royal College of Surgeons of England has expressed ‘grave concern’ that more than 2 million people have been waiting over the statutory 18 weeks for NHS hospital treatment.1

Today’s figures also report a record total waiting list, with 6 million patients waiting for consultant-led hospital treatment.2 This is the highest figure since records began in August 2007. 

Also, the number of patients waiting over two years for hospital treatment has increased to a record 18,585.  This is an increase of 14.5% on the previous month, when 16,225 people were waiting over two years.  The longest waits are for Trauma and Orthopaedic treatment - such as hip and knee replacements (3,967), followed by General Surgery - such as gallbladder removals and hernia operations (2,326), followed by Ear Nose and Throat treatment (2,263).

The statistics also show NHS hospitals are seeing huge numbers of patients again – almost back to pre-pandemic levels.  More than 1.4 million people (1,423,002) started consultant-led treatment during November – the highest figure since before the pandemic.  

Commenting on the figures, Professor Neil Mortensen, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:

“NHS staff have been working tirelessly to deliver planned surgery and treatment despite the many difficulties imposed by Covid measures in our hospitals.  However, we are gravely concerned that more than 2 million people in England have not been treated within the national standard of 18 weeks. 

“Today’s data are for November - before Omicron wreaked havoc on NHS services and staff, so the picture today is likely even worse.  The figures give a worrying indication of just how long it is going to take to recover from the pandemic. 

“To deal with the lengthening queue of people waiting for an operation we must have enough staff to meet patient demand.  This is why we are supporting an amendment to the Health and Care Bill, designed to strengthen workforce planning and projections.  We strongly urge the House of Lords to support this amendment next week.

 “We are also calling on the government to publish their delayed Elective Recovery Plan.  This needs to give clear direction on the longer term transformation needed to tackle the waiting list, including, crucially, establishing surgical hubs across the country.”


Notes to editors

  1. The NHS Constitution includes the statutory target that 92% of patients should receive treatment within 18 weeks. In November, 65.5% of patients were seen within that time-frame.  2,065,839 people have been waiting over the statutory 18 weeks for NHS hospital treatment.
  2. NHS performance statistics published today are available here:
  3.  The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity. The College provides world-class education, assessment and development to more than 28,000 surgeons, dental professionals and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their career. The College sets professional standards, facilitates research and champions the best outcomes for patients – with a vision to see excellent surgical care for everyone.
  4. For more information, please contact the RCS England Press Office on: 020 7869 6052/6054; or email:



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