08 Jul COVID-19: NHS waiting list at record high but hospitals admitting more patients, figures show | UK News
The number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has risen to a new record high in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of 5.3 million people were on the waiting list at the end of May – the highest since records began in August 2007.
But the number of people admitted to hospital for surgery and routine treatment is getting back to pre-pandemic levels, figures from NHS England show.
In May, 242,064 people were admitted, a four-fold rise from the 54,550 a year earlier, when hospitals were dealing with thousands of COVID-19 patients.
The NHS admitted nearly 295,881 people for routine treatment in May 2019, before the pandemic struck, suggesting the service is getting close to dealing with pre-COVID numbers of patients.
The number of people waiting more than 52 weeks to start treatment fell by almost 50,000 from April to May, but at 336,733, it is still about 13 times higher than the year before.
For those waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment, the figure is down nearly 83,000, from 1.81 million in April to 1.73 million in May.
NHS medical director Professor Stephen Powys said it’s “reassuring to see in today’s figures significant reductions in waits for routine operations, and for the first time this year, a reduction in the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment”.
Responding to the high overall waiting list, Tracey Loftis, head of policy and public affairs at Versus Arthritis, said: “Joint replacements are in the category of planned surgery and treatment that has been worst affected and slowest to restart over the last year, all too often considered not serious or life-altering enough to be front of the queue.”
Stella Vig, council member at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Behind the stats are patients waiting for planned surgery such as breast reconstruction surgery following a mastectomy, or a cochlear implant to improve their hearing.
“These types of procedures are life-changing.”
Some experts fear the easing of all restrictions in England, due to take place later this month, will lead to a rise in COVID cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “(Health Secretary) Sajid Javid has failed to put forward a plan to bring infections down, to clear the backlog or to support our NHS in this difficult period, instead he’s proposing a top-down reorganisation of our health service when it is under more pressure than ever before.”