NHS waiting list at record high of over 7.3 million

Surgeons are calling on the Government to “get on and publish” the highly anticipated NHS workforce plan. The Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Mr Tim Mitchell, has said making a proper dent in waiting lists will remain difficult without the plan.

The latest NHS performance data shows the waiting list for NHS consultant-led hospital treatment has grown again to a record high of over 7.3 million. There were 7,331,974 people on the waiting list at the end of March 2023. The target to eliminate routine elective waits of over 78 weeks by April 2023 has also been missed. Despite the huge efforts of NHS staff to reduce these waits, the data shows 10,737 patients waiting more than 78 weeks in March 2023. This was down from a high of 124,911 in September 2021.

Patients waiting for operations such as hip and knee replacements and general surgeries such as gallbladder removals and hernia repairs are still waiting the longest. The figures show, 804,180 patients waiting for Trauma & Orthopaedics, 589,372 waiting for Ear, Nose & Throat treatment, and 448,580 waiting for General Surgery. 

Commenting on the figures, Mr Tim Mitchell, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “It is disappointing that the target to eliminate 78 week waits hasn’t been met but it is not for want of trying. Staff have worked incredibly hard in some of the most difficult circumstances the NHS has ever faced to clear these waits. Record staff vacancies, high levels of COVID-19 and flu over the winter, and industrial action have all hampered recovery efforts. NHS teams will be doing all that they can to eradicate these waits as soon as possible.  

“With the overall waiting list at a record high of 7.3 million, workforce is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment. NHS staff are doing the very best they can to cut the waiting list but until there is a clear workforce plan in place to deal with the chronic staff vacancies that impede the day-to-day running of the NHS, the situation remains very difficult.

“The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has made cutting waiting times one of his five key pledges, but the much promised and anticipated workforce plan, which will set the course to putting a proper dent in waiting lists, has yet to materialise. It’s time for the Government to get on and publish the plan.” 

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