Health

NHS waiting list spikes to ANOTHER record high: Now 6.4MILLION patients are stuck in queues


The number of people in the queue for routine NHS treatment in England has soared to another high and record numbers are facing ‘frightening waits’ in A&E.

As the crisis in the health service deepens, official statistics show one in nine people (6.4million) were waiting for elective operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts surgery by March — up from the 6.18m stuck in February.

There are now 306,000 who have been waiting for more than a year for their operation, up 2 per cent, and 16,796 have been seeking treatment for more than two years, down slightly.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, has promised to cut one-year-plus waits to zero by 2025, using the 1.25 per cent National Insurance hike that came into effect last month.

Separate data on A&E performance in April shows a record 24,138 people were forced to wait 12 hours or more to be treated, three times longer than the NHS target and the worst figure on record.  

Just seven in 10 patients were seen within four hours of arriving at ‘absolutely packed’ emergency departments, a slight recovery from last month, making it the second-lowest rate ever recorded. Medics warned access to urgent care has become a ‘serious issue’.

Ambulance figures for April show 999 waits fell compared to March but were higher than nearly all other months since records began. Experts said the ‘small reductions’ in waiting times mean patients still face ‘frightening waits’.

Health chiefs today pleaded with Britons to get taxis or lifts from people to ease pressures, saying they would be ‘worried’ about loved ones being able to get an ambulance ‘in a timely way’. One mother today told how of how her nine-year-old daughter fractured her skull when she fell off her bike but was told the ambulance wait would be 10 hours — 15-times longer than the 40-minue target.

The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England has soared to another record of 6.36million. NHS data shows one in nine people were in the queue for elective operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts surgery by March — up from 6.18m in February

The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England has soared to another record of 6.36million. NHS data shows one in nine people were in the queue for elective operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataracts surgery by March — up from 6.18m in February 

Separate data on A&E performance in April shows a record 24,138 people were forced to wait 12 hours or more to be treated, three times longer than the NHS target and the worst figure on record

Separate data on A&E performance in April shows a record 24,138 people were forced to wait 12 hours or more to be treated, three times longer than the NHS target and the worst figure on record

The NHS England data, published today, shows the NHS backlog grew by another 2.8 per cent in March compared to February. 

Health chiefs expect the list to keep growing until March 2024, with between 9.2 and 10.7m patients on the waiting list at the peak.

Of the 6.36m waiting patients, 62.4 per cent joined the queue in the last four months, while 4.8 per cent have been waiting more than one year and 0.3 per cent have been waiting for more than two years.

One-year waiters increased by 2.3 per cent between February and March.

The number waiting two years fell by 27.9 per cent month-on-month. But the 16,796 figure for march is more than six times higher than a year ago.

NHS ambulance crisis sparks an 80% spike in serious safety incidents – with heart attack victims still waiting an HOUR for paramedics to arrive

Long waits for ambulances are having a ‘dangerous impact’ on patient safety, medics have warned as safety incidents and waiting times soar.

The number of safety incidents logged by ambulance trusts in England has skyrocketed 77 per cent in the last year compared to before the pandemic, official figures show.

The reports — which paramedics log with the NHS when an incident risks long-term harm or death to a patient — jumped from 312 in the year to March 2020 to 551 in the 12 months to March 2022.

The figures, which mainly reflect harm due to ‘access, admission or transfer’ problems, include 201 unintended deaths, more than double the 78 logged two years ago. 

Health chiefs warned thousands of patients across the country could be affected every month, as not all staff reports their concerns.

And a mother has today told of how her nine-year-old daughter fractured her skull when she fell off her bike but was told the ambulance wait would be 10 hours — 15-times longer than the 40-minue target.

The crisis in the ambulance service, triggered by record demand, ongoing Covid disruption and handover delays at hospitals, saw patients facing record waits in March. 

The most common long-waits were for trauma and orthopaedic treatment, such as hip and knee replacements, ear, nose and throat treatment and general surgery – such as gallbladder removals and hernia operations. 

It means many patients will have been left in pain for years as they wait for care. 

NHS England said the backlog is growing rather than shrinking because increasing numbers of people are coming forward following the pandemic — with 1.8m people referred for treatment in March. 

Ministers announced an elective recovery plan earlier this year, promising that two-year waits would be scrapped by July and one-year waits by March 2025.

It is being funded by the manifesto-busting tax hike that came into force last month. The plan has been branded as ‘not ambitious enough’ by Labour, health unions and even senior Conservatives.

A total of 17,477 NHS operations were cancelled in the first three months of the year, today’s figures show, and nearly a quarter of patients had still not been treated 28 days after their cancellation. 

Experts have urged the NHS to make greater use of private hospitals to clear the backlog, which would enable the health service to perform tens of thousands more procedures per month at no greater cost. 

NHS pricing rules state that independent providers are paid the NHS price for NHS work, which is invariably lower than private clinics would normally charge. 

Private hospitals in the UK have the capacity to do ‘at least 30 per cent more than they did pre-pandemic’, according to reports — equivalent to about 30,000 more procedures a month, giving tens of thousands of patients the treatment they need.  

Meanwhile, A&E data shows 2m people in England showed up at emergency departments in April.

Just 72.3 per cent of people were seen within the health service’s own four-hour target — the second-lowest rate recorded since records began in 2010.

A total of 131,905 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in March, the second-worst figure on record. 

And 24,138 were forced to wait more than 12 hours. The number is up from 22,506 in March — a 7.3 per cent month-on-month jump. That is also the highest number since records began. 

NHS standards set out that at least 95 per cent of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, but this has not been met nationally since 2015.  

Some 389,855 patients — 25 per cent of the total — were waiting longer than six weeks for one of 15 key diagnostic tests in March, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy.

The equivalent number in March 2021 was 305,061 (24 per cent of the total), while in March 2020 there were 85,749 (10 per cent).

Ambulance figures for April show waits for paramedics fell compared to March but were higher than nearly all other months since records began. Ambulances took an average of 51 minutes and 22 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is nine minutes and 41 seconds quicker than one month earlier

Ambulance figures for April show waits for paramedics fell compared to March but were higher than nearly all other months since records began. Ambulances took an average of 51 minutes and 22 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is nine minutes and 41 seconds quicker than one month earlier

The number of safety incidents logged by ambulance trusts in England has skyrocketed 77 per cent in the last year compared to before the pandemic, official figures show. The reports — which paramedics log with the NHS when an incident risks long-term harm or death to a patient — jumped from 312 in the year to March 2020 to 551 in the 12 months to March 2022. The figures, which mainly reflect harm due to 'access, admission or transfer' problems, include 201 unintended deaths, more than double the 78 logged two years ago

The number of safety incidents logged by ambulance trusts in England has skyrocketed 77 per cent in the last year compared to before the pandemic, official figures show. The reports — which paramedics log with the NHS when an incident risks long-term harm or death to a patient — jumped from 312 in the year to March 2020 to 551 in the 12 months to March 2022. The figures, which mainly reflect harm due to ‘access, admission or transfer’ problems, include 201 unintended deaths, more than double the 78 logged two years ago

WHAT DO THE LATEST NHS PERFORMANCE FIGURES SHOW? 

The overall waiting list has jumped to 6.4million. This is up from 6.2m in February and is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

There were 16,796 people waiting more than two years to start treatment at the end of March, down from February but 6.4-times more than April 2021.

The number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment was 306,286 in March, up from 299,478 the previous month.

A record 24,138 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in April. The figure is up from 22,506 in March and is the highest for any month since record began in 2010.

A total of 131,905 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in April, down slightly from the all-time high of 136,298 in March. 

Just 72.3 per cent of patients were seen within four hours at A&Es last month. NHS standards set out that 95 per cent should be admitted, transferred or discharged within the four-hour window.

The average category one response time – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and two seconds. This is 33 seconds faster than March.

Ambulances took an average of 51 minutes and 22 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is nine minutes and 41 seconds quicker than one month earlier.

Response times for category three calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged two hours, 38 minutes and 41 seconds. This is 49 minutes and 32 seconds faster than March. 

Some 389,855 patients people were waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test in March, including an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy.

The equivalent number in March 2021 was 305,061 (24 per cent of the total), while in March 2020 there were 85,749 (10 per cent). 

The elective recovery plan sets the ambition that 95 per cent of patients needing a diagnostic test receive it within six weeks by March 2025.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said the figures show the health service is making ‘good progress’ tackling the backlogs, boasting of record diagnostic tests and cancer checks in March ‘as part of the most ambitious catch up plan in NHS history’.

He said: ‘We always knew the waiting list would initially continue to grow as more people come forward for care who may have held off during the pandemic.

‘But today’s data show the number of people waiting more than two years has fallen for the second month in a row, and the number waiting more than 18 months has gone down for the first time.’

Professor Powis added: ‘There is no doubt the NHS still faces pressures, and the latest figures are another reminder of the crucial importance of community and social care, in helping people in hospital leave when they are fit to do so, not just because it is better for them but because it helps free up precious NHS bed space.’

Health leaders warn that more than one in 10 beds are currently taken up by people who are medically fit to be discharged but are stuck in hospital due to a lack of social care staff to look after them when they get out.

Dr Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research at health charity Nuffield Trust, said there has been ‘some progress’ in bringing down waiting lists but ‘this does not take away from the reality’ of the ‘appalling delays’ patients are facing.

She warned there is a ‘very long way to go to return to even pre-pandemic levels’.

And ‘small reductions’ in ambulance response times ‘should also be seen in the context of continuing frightening waits for patients’, Dr Scobie said.

‘These delays could lead to unintended or life-changing consequences,’ she added. 

Fiona Myint, a consultant vascular surgeon and vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said the latest NHS data shows ‘how Omicron played roulette with NHS plans this winter’. 

She said: ‘Cancellations are devastating for patients and distressing for surgeons. The Omicron variant wreaked havoc, disrupting planned operations because patients were testing positive, or staff were off sick with the virus. 

‘Hospitals also had to wrestle with the long-running issue of staff vacancies, and struggled to discharge patients who were ready to leave, into social care.’

Separate NHS data shows 253,796 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in March, the highest number in records going back to October 2009.

This is up nine per cent from 232,136 in the same month last year. The equivalent figure for March 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 198,418.

Eight in 10 patients saw a specialist within two weeks, the same as the previous month.

Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of patients urgently referred for suspected cancer were diagnosed or had cancer ruled out within 28 days — missing the 75 per cent target.

Data on this metric only goes back to April 2021, so there are no comparable figures for March 2021.

England’s Covid backlog in cancer care is set to last another five years without urgent action, a leading cancer charity warned today. Graph shows: The number of patients fewer than expected to receive first cancer treatment since the start of the pandemic (red line) and how long it will take to reduce to zero if treatments continue at the current pace (dotted red line), increase 5 per cent on pre-pandemic levels (dotted green line) or increase 10 per cent on pre-pandemic levels (dotted blue line)

Minesh Patel, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the figures show ‘some desperately needed progress’ in the numbers of people with suspected cancer being referred.

But he said tens of thousands of people are still entering a ‘gridlocked cancer care system that is struggling to diagnose and treat them on time, which could impact the quality of their care and even their prognosis’. 

MacMillan estimates 32,000 fewer patients than expected have started their first treatment in the two years since the start of the pandemic, due to a combination of hospitals prioritising Covid, poor access to GPs and patients being reluctant to come forward.

While more cancer cases have started to trickle through the system now, the charity estimates at the current rate it will take until September 2027 to clear the backlog.

England’s cancer backlog could take more than five years to clear, leading cancer charity warns

England’s cancer backlog won’t be tackled for another five years without urgent action, charities warned today. 

MacMillan estimates 32,000 fewer patients than expected have started their first treatment in the two years since the start of the pandemic, due to a combination of hospitals prioritising Covid, poor access to GPs and patients being reluctant to come forward.

While more cancer cases have started to trickle through the system now, the charity estimates at the current rate it will take until September 2027 to clear the backlog.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan, said the backlog was even ‘worse than predicted’ and the timeline for a return to normal was ‘completely unacceptable’. 

Delays raise the risk of the disease spreading to other parts of the body, which slashes survival rates and reduces patients’ treatment options.

Separate analysis by MacMillan also shows fewer people are being diagnosed now than expected. 

The number of people being told they have the disease stalled from May to November last year — even though it should have increased.

This suggests there are more people with cancer slipping under the radar, the charity claimed.

Delays raise the risk of the disease spreading to other parts of the body, which slashes survival rates and reduces patients’ treatment options.

Separate analysis by MacMillan also shows fewer people are being diagnosed now than expected. 

The number of people being told they have the disease stalled from May to November last year — even though it should have increased.

This suggests there are more people with cancer slipping under the radar, the charity claimed. 

Meanwhile, ambulance data shows paramedics are arriving faster than March, which saw the worst wait times since records began in August 2017, but are still missing targets. 

The average category one response time – calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries – was nine minutes and two seconds. This is 33 seconds faster than March.

Ambulances took an average of 51 minutes and 22 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is nine minutes and 41 seconds quicker than one month earlier.

Response times for category three calls – such as late stages of labour, non-severe burns and diabetes – averaged two hours, 38 minutes and 41 seconds. This is 49 minutes and 32 seconds faster than March.

It comes as the number of safety incidents logged by ambulance trusts in England has skyrocketed 77 per cent in the last year compared to before the pandemic, official figures show.

The reports — which paramedics log with the NHS when an incident risks long-term harm or death to a patient — jumped from 312 in the year to March 2020 to 551 in the 12 months to March 2022.

The figures, which mainly reflect harm due to ‘access, admission or transfer’ problems, include 201 unintended deaths, more than double the 78 logged two years ago. 

Health chiefs warned thousands of patients across the country could be affected every month, as not all staff reports their concerns.

The crisis in the ambulance service, triggered by record demand, ongoing Covid disruption and handover delays at hospitals, saw patients facing record waits in March.

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme she would be ‘worried’ about family members who needed an ambulance being able to access one in a ‘timely way’.

She said she would be ‘looking very carefully at what alternatives’ they could get, such as a taxi or a someone to drive them in.

Dr Henderson said: ‘This is more serious than we’ve ever seen it. We’ve never broken the commitment to get an ambulance to a patient in a timely way. 

NHS England aims to treat 85 per cent of cancer patients who receive an urgent referral from their GP within two months, but in November 2021, the latest available, only 67.5 per cent of patients received treatment in this time frame. While the problem predates the Covid pandemic, the disruption to services caused by the virus has exacerbated the problem

NHS England aims to treat 85 per cent of cancer patients who receive an urgent referral from their GP within two months, but in November 2021, the latest available, only 67.5 per cent of patients received treatment in this time frame. While the problem predates the Covid pandemic, the disruption to services caused by the virus has exacerbated the problem

‘It’s part of the NHS constitution that we will get care to emergency patients without unnecessary delay. And this is the first time in my career, over 20 years as a consultant, when that has become a serious issue.’ 

She warned ‘an increasing number of patients’ are making their own way to hospital, with the walk-in queue now including ‘patients who should have come by ambulance’. 

This makes it difficult to know who is in the queue and how serious their illness is because they have not been assessed by paramedics who ‘are very skilled at helping us prioritise’, forcing doctors to be ‘very, very vigilant’, Dr Henderson said.

She said: ‘We’ve got big queues, we can’t get flow out of our departments. The reason there is this problem, the underlying reason is that emergency departments are absolutely packed.’

Dr Henderson added: ‘We sometimes start the morning with more patients waiting to go up to the ward than cubicles that we have and that’s at the beginning of the day. 

‘We can’t then get new patients in because we have no space. We end up with patients in corridors, we end up with patients in any clinical area that we can manage to put them.’

Despite receiving a record £136.1 billion this year to help it recover from Covid, critics say the health service is still unable to treat enough patients.

Morgan Schondelmeier, director of operations at the Adam Smith Institute, told MailOnline it’s ‘no real surprise that the NHS performance figures have failed to pass muster once again’. 

She said: ‘While the pandemic obviously placed a lot of additional pressures on the NHS, the problem is structural and systemic. 

‘Even with record levels of funding the NHS just can’t keep up with demand, and it’s unlikely that it ever will. 

‘Bureaucracy, restricted GP access, and a lack of urgency leads to a rationing of service through extended waiting times, and who knows how many people will never be able to access treatment because they were made to wait until it was too late. 

‘With NHS approval ratings at a record low, it’s high time for a critical look at a service which is meant to protect the people, not the other way around.’

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, told MailOnline: ‘With one in every eight pounds earned in this country spent on healthcare, the public is tired of hearing excuses about underfunding. 

‘The reality is that the NHS is lavishly funded but fundamentally flawed. It is not working for patients and, aside from the managerial elite, it is not working for staff either. We are paying top dollar for a third world service.’ 



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