Advising with empathy and experience

Covid pandemic makes NHS long waits 100 times higher than before


The number of patients in England waiting over a year for routine hospital care is now 100 times higher than before the pandemic, figures show.

Nearly 163,000 out of the 4.4m on the waiting list at the end of October had waited more than 12 months for operations such as hip replacements while only 1,600 patients had been waiting a year or more in February, NHS England data shows.

The number of ‘long waits’ is now at its highest level since 2008.

The Royal College of Surgeons says patients are being left in pain, unable to carry on with day-to-day life.

RCS president, prof Neil Mortensen, said: "Yet again, these waiting time figures drive home the devastating impact Covid has had on wider NHS services."

He added that this was a "national crisis" that could take two to three years to tackle.

There are some signs elsewhere in the figures that matters may be starting to improve. The number of operations being carried out is increasing, while average waits are falling.

The data also shows accident-and-emergency attendances dropped during lockdown.

There were 1.49m A&E visits in November, a quarter down on normal levels, raising concerns that people with serious illnesses may not be receiving the help they need.

At the height of the initial pandemic, attendances dropped to 900,000 a month before climbing during the summer and reaching a peak of 1.72m.

However, the numbers of urgent cancer checks, and patients starting cancer treatment, have returned to normal levels.

An NHS England spokesman said: "Although Covid hospitalisations almost doubled during November, for every Covid inpatient the NHS treated, hospitals managed to treat five other inpatients for other health conditions.

"With cancer referrals and treatments now back above usual levels, our message remains that people should continue to come forward for care when they need it."