Man waiting

Longest waiters continue to be driven down, latest figures show

The number of patients waiting more than a year and a half for treatment has been reduced by over a quarter, the health service has announced today.

In mid-January, the number of people who had been waiting 18 months or more stood at 54,382 and, as of the 12th of February, had been cut by around 27% to 39,903. The progress comes as the April targets of virtually eliminating all these waiters draws closer.

More than 70 NHS trusts across England have fewer than 100 people on their 18-month lists, whilst over 25 trusts have less than 10 patients, as well as 10 health settings that have already eliminated these longest waiters.

NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “Thanks to the incredible efforts and dedication of our staff, we are continuing to make significant inroads in bringing down the Covid backlog – this reduction is a remarkable achievement given staff have experienced the worst winter on record with huge seasonal pressures with the fear of the twindemic of covid and flu becoming a reality.

“Whether it is the expansion of surgical hubs and the rollout of community diagnostic centres benefiting thousands more patients this year  or joined up working between trusts through mutual aid, the NHS will continue to innovate and adapt services so we can continue to make progress on the longest waits for patients.”

With the total number of 18-month waiters now down by more than two thirds since hitting its peak at 123,969 in September 2021, all the progress comes despite the health service suffering from the ongoing industrial action and the subsequent cancelled appointments.

Some of the country’s larger trusts do naturally still house longer waiting lists but the NHS has highlighted how they are “making significant progress” to tackle their backlog quickly.

For example, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust cut its 18-month list in half last month, going from 5,659 all the way down to 2,883 and, with the help of other NHS trusts, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust also managed to substantially reduce its waiting lists, as the 18-month waiters went down by 27% from 5,287 to 3,802.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak added: “Cutting waiting lists is one of my top five priorities and this shows we are delivering on our promise to patients.

“There is still a long way to go but with two year waits virtually eliminated, and 18 month waits reduced by a quarter in a single month – our plan to recover the Covid elective backlog is working and we will keep building on this progress so every patient gets the care they need.”

National Health Executive, Jan/Feb, Cover

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