Patients waiting a year to start hospital treatment up almost fold in months

The number of people waiting more than a year for hospital treatment has risen almost 140-fold in 12 months, the latest figures show, with almost 200,000 now on a 52-week waiting list.

NHS data shows 192,169 people were waiting over a year to start treatment as of November 2020, up 20 per cent on October.

But compared to November 2019, the figure has risen exponentially from just 1,398.

The data also shows a record 4.46m people were waiting to start hospital treatment in total, the highest since records began in August 2007.

This compares with 4.42 million in November 2019 and 4.45 million in October that year – the previous highest number in the data.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “Today’s figures show the calamitous impact of Covid-19 on wait times for operations.

“In November, a record number of patients were waiting for hospital treatment.

“For thousands of people in this country, a corrective operation is the best way to relieve debilitating pain and get them back up on their feet, back to work and enjoying life again.

“Many of us were complaining about the pain of the lockdown restrictions in November.

“However, we should remember all those people waiting for an operation, who had their physical pain to deal with, on top of the pain of lockdown.”

Prof Mortensen also warned that a “huge hidden waiting list” was building up under lockdown.

“When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment to treat all those who have been waiting patiently for treatment.”

News

More than 5,000 patients waited longer than an hour to be handed over from ambulance teams to A&E staff at hospitals in England in the week to January 10, the figures released Thursday show.

A total of 5,513 delays of over 60 minutes were recorded across all acute trusts.

It is the highest weekly figure so far this winter, up slightly from 5,318 delays in the previous week.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust reported the highest number for an individual trust in the week to January 10 (291 delays of more than 60 minutes), followed by Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (254) and the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (180).

A handover delay does not always mean a patient has waited in the ambulance. They may have been moved into an A&E department, but staff were not available to complete the handover.

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 27 per cent in November compared with a year ago.

Some 222,810 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, down from 303,193 in November 2019.

Daily growth in Covid hospital admissions by region
Daily growth in Covid hospital admissions by region

But NHS England said half a million more people sought help in England’s A&Es in December compared with the first peak of the pandemic in April.

In April 2020 there were 916,581 attendances at A&E in England compared with 1,475,710 in December.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Despite 2020 being the year of Covid, nearly 20 million people received emergency care in England’s A&Es, while in November alone as Covid-19 was spreading more rapidly, patients still benefited from four million important elective treatments and essential checks on the NHS.”

He added that the figures were a “stark reminder” of the “exceptionally tough challenge” the NHS was facing. 

“There is no doubt that services will continue to be under additional pressure until and unless this virus is under control, which is why it’s so important that everyone practises social distancing and follows national guidance,” he said

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