NHS waiting list in England hits record 7m

A record 7 million people were waiting for hospital treatment in England at the end of August, according to the latest NHS monthly performance figures released on Thursday.

The total rose from 6.8 million a month earlier and included 2.75 million patients who waited more than 18 weeks for treatment and 387,000 who waited more than a year.

More recent data for accident and emergency departments showed that in September just 57 percent of patients were treated within four hours, a sharp decrease from the 76 percent in the same month in 2019 before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The deterioration came despite a 2 percent drop in the number of A&E participants last month compared to the same month in 2019.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, has urged the government to tackle the staffing and funding crisis facing the healthcare system. “The NHS will continue to operate at full speed but there is no easy solution to fill its 132,000 vacancies or to address the staggering cut in real funding that services continue to face,” he said.

“If the Government really cares about the NHS then it needs to commit investments to a fully funded workforce plan and guarantee that the NHS’ capital budgets are protected to ensure patients are supported both pre-winter and longer term.”

Taylor said “the aftershock of the pandemic” was still affecting the NHS as more than 10,000 people were hospitalized with coronavirus infections, but it was not solely responsible for the “sky high” pressure on the health system.

There are some bright spots in the numbers, however, such as fewer patients awaiting a diagnostic test in August compared to July. Sarah Clarke, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said it was “a testament to the extremely hard work of health workers”, but said the waiting list of 1.5million was still too high.

“Staff shortage is the biggest obstacle to shortening waiting lists. The new Secretary of State has promised a long-term staffing plan – this must come by the end of 2022,” she added.

Professor Philip Banfield, Chair of the Council of the British Medical Association, said: “However you look at it, these numbers are a damning example of what happens when a government continues to underinvest or devote resources to its health service.”

Reacting to the figures, Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Despite the tremendous pressure on the NHS this summer, the incredible work of colleagues across the country meant we carried out more potentially life-saving cancer screenings in August than ever before before. and reduced 18-month waiting times by 60 percent over the past year.

“This has come despite the continued pressure of hospitalized Covid patients, which has now risen to more than double the number seen in August, and despite more of the most serious ambulance calls than pre-pandemic,” Powis said

In another sign of the pressure on public services, figures released Thursday showed the overburdened criminal justice system was struggling to cope.

According to the Justice Department, the backlog of cases in the Crown Court rose to 61,212 in August from 60,380 in July. When the pandemic broke out in March 2020, the backlog was 40,000.

The latest figures reflect the full impact of industrial action taken by criminal lawyers, who staged sporadic strikes in July and August after refusing the government’s offer of legal aid, before going on a sustained strike on September 5. They returned to work on Tuesday this week after accepting a new improved offer.

additional reporting by Jane Croft

https://www.ft.com/content/80f2b824-13a2-4931-bfcf-7e811cf78d5e NHS waiting list in England hits record 7m

Adam Bradshaw

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