Millions Waiting for Routine Operations

4.7 million people in England were waiting for routine operations and procedures in February.

This is according to new figures from NHS England.

The figures also showed that almost 388,000 people had waited more than a year for non-urgent surgery – compared to 1,600 before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

It was also announced that the number of people admitted to hospital for routine treatment was 47% lower in February than a year earlier. January saw an even bigger annual fall of 54%.

Below target

In January and February 2021, hospitals were under severe pressure from the pandemic. But NHS England said 2 million operations had been carried out then.

According to the waiting time statistics, just 64.5% of patients were treated within 18 weeks in February. The government’s target is 92%.

Although the pandemic has placed more pressure on health services, surgeons have pointed out that there had been problems meeting targets before it began. The 18-week target was last met in 2016.

Mr Tim Mitchell, vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “387,885 patients have now been waiting over a year for planned treatment.

“That is a year of uncertainty, pain, and isolation. People have been patient as they’ve seen the battering the pandemic has given the NHS, but how much longer can they be expected to wait?”

He added that hundreds of thousands of patients were left waiting for routine operations like hip and knee operations, cochlear implants and vascular surgery.

Calls for funding

Speaking to the BBC, chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said: “We're clear in the NHS that we have a responsibility to get through this by doing all we can – by increasing capacity, growing our workforce, finding innovative ways of treating people, and increasing efficiency – but government needs to play its part as well.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson said the government would “make sure that we give the NHS all the funding that it needs”.

The Royal College of Surgeons in England has called for levels of investment last seen in the 2000s to get the NHS back on track.

Sara Bainbridge, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, highlighted the impact of the pandemic on cancer treatment. She explained that the NHS figures show how “catastrophic” the impact of Covid-19 has been on cancer diagnosis and treatment.

She said: “To address the extensive challenges that lie ahead, the NHS urgently needs a long-term, fully funded plan for its workforce, ensuring there are more dedicated staff who are able to provide the best care for cancer patients, now and in the future.”


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