Statistics show progress has been made on reducing the longest waits, 1,907 people were waiting more than two years for hospital treatment in October 2022, down from 23,778 in January 2022, an all-time high.
The next target set out in the government’s Elective Recovery Plan is to eliminate waits of 18 months or more by April 2023, but today’s figures show slow progress towards this target. Although there was a small reduction in the number of people waiting for 18 months or more (50,124 for October, compared to 50,780 in September) the 18-month waiting figure has been stubbornly stuck at above 50,000 patients for the past few months.
Meanwhile the total waiting list, and the number of people waiting a year or more for planned care continues to rise. In October 2022, 410,983 patients were waiting a year or more for planned hospital treatment. This is 98,318 more than a year ago; in October 2021, 312,665 patients were waiting 52 weeks or more.
The government announced it would be setting up a new ‘Elective Recovery Taskforce’, to try to reduce waiting times for NHS patients by using additional capacity in the independent sector. The taskforce is looking at how collaboration between the NHS and independent sector can be improved, so that the NHS can make more use of independent sector capacity.
Commenting on the waiting time figures, and the new Taskforce, Mr Tim Mitchell, a consultant Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, and Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:
“We are concerned that a very difficult winter lies ahead, with hospitals full of patients, flu and Covid-19, and increased pressure on emergency departments. We also face the prospect of industrial action by staff who are burnt-out and feel undervalued.
“We welcome the government’s plans to help the NHS make use of capacity in the independent sector to reduce waits for NHS patients. However, it’s the same depleted workforce who will be treating patients there. The government urgently needs to publish its workforce strategy."