NHS Treatment Waiting List Increases For First Time In Seven Months

The waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England has risen for the first time in seven months, new figures show, in what will be a fresh blow to Rishi Sunak’s election campaign.

An estimated 7.57 million treatments were waiting to be carried out at the end of April, relating to 6.33 million patients – up slightly from 7.54 million treatments and 6.29 million patients at the end of March, NHS England said.

The list hit a record high in September 2023 with 7.77 million treatments and 6.50 million patients.

Responding to the figures Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said: “These figures are a stark reminder of the immense pressure the NHS is under, with leaders and their teams having to work incredibly hard to care for patients in the face of relentless demand.

“It is disappointing to see that waiting lists have risen for the first time since October despite the health service managing to increase productivity to above pre-pandemic levels. But the rise in productivity is testament to the hard work and planning or NHS leaders and their teams who have been having to manage the pressure of rising demand and ongoing industrial action.

“A&Es saw a record number of attendances and the second highest number of emergency admissions, suggesting that not only is demand continuing to increase but patients are sicker. Ambulance response times are also now going back in the wrong direction.

“We know that the NHS is in a very difficult position, with health systems having to consider cutting clinical and administrative staff to balance their books. Trusts are also telling us they are reducing their use of independent sector and in-sourcing services, more weekend working and additional sessions.

“There is a very real risk that the financial pressures that stem from a decade of underinvestment, flat revenue budgets and a lack of capital funding the NHS could jeopardise tackling backlogs and improving performance.

“If the NHS is going to tackle waiting lists and improve performance it needs the right support and resources to do so. That is why we are calling for the next government to invest an extra £6.4 billion a year into capital budgets which our members feel is crucial to unlocking greater productivity.”

Tim Gardner, Assistant Director of Policy at the Health Foundation, said:
‘With both Labour and the Conservatives promising big improvements in NHS waiting times, today’s figures are a stark reminder of the scale of the challenge facing the next government.

‘The waiting list for routine hospital care remains at near record levels at 7.57 million, having virtually tripled over the last decade. While there has been some progress in recent months, there is still a huge mountain to climb with over 300,000 waits of over one year – compared to less than 2,000 before the pandemic. The situation in urgent and emergency care is equally dire; more than one in 10 patients now spends over 12 hours in A&E, with the four hour waiting time target not met since July 2015.

‘’To make good on manifesto pledges, whoever forms the next government needs to prioritise stable, long-term investment in the NHS to keep pace with demand and improve services for the future. This includes addressing staff shortages, modernising crumbling buildings, replacing outdated equipment and reforming the social care system. Without this, commitments to substantially cut waiting times are just empty promises.’