NHS Waiting Lists Hit Historic High

30 April 2021

At the start of the month The Guardian reported that NHS England is concerned that patients could be waiting for up to two years for vital operations due to the backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recent NHS England data has revealed that at the end of February 2021 hospital waiting lists in England were the longest that they have been since records began in 2007 with 4.7 million people waiting for hospital treatment.

Of those on the waiting lists, nearly 388,000 people have waited more than a year to start treatment, higher than at any time in the previous 13 years. This compared to just 1,613 people facing that length of wait before the pandemic.

There are concerns that this historically high figure may increase further by the end of 2021 as people who have put off seeking help after discovering symptoms of illness finally go to see their GP.

During the early stages of the pandemic there was a widespread suspension of normal NHS diagnostic tests and surgery leading to a significant number of people waiting for hospital treatment. Whilst NHS hospitals have carried out 1.9 million elective procedures or appointments during the pandemic, this is significantly below the normal numbers.

Under the NHS constitution 92% of people waiting should be treated within 18 weeks. Over a third of the people currently waiting for treatment have been waiting longer than this. Patients who require urgent cancer or cardiac surgery within 28 days to avoid a deterioration in their condition are not receiving the necessary treatment and they will suffer harm as a result.

NHS Providers has said that it is concerned that it may take up to 5 years to address the backlog.

It has recently been reported by The Guardian that hospitals intend to increase capacity by creating extra surgery lists in the evenings and weekends in an attempt to address the backlog. The aim is to target the patients who are most in need.

However, there are concerns in the NHS that nurses are still angry at the 1% pay offer made by the Government creating fears of a mass exodus of skilled staff from the NHS. The Government is also in the early stages of a reorganisation of the NHS which may cause more staff to leave. The biggest concern, however, is that NHS staff have not fully recovered from their significant workloads during the pandemic. This could create the perfect storm of reducing staff numbers at a time of increased demand.

Kenneth Lees, specialist Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Curtis Law commented:

"It is crucial that medical advice is sought if someone has a concern about their health so that the relevant care or treatment can be accessed. It is understandable that the demands caused by the pandemic have impacted on the capacity within the system, and there will be many instances where patients have suffered harm during the pandemic for non-negligent reasons. Many patients have suffered increased pain and reduced mobility due to delayed hip and knee replacement surgeries, for example. However, the Government has consistently recommended that patients who need medical assistance see their GP or attend hospital as normal throughout the pandemic, so each example of delayed diagnosis or delayed treatment requires careful analysis by an experienced clinical negligence solicitor to assess whether the delay was negligent"

If you wish to discuss a potential clinical negligence claim with our specialist solicitors you can contact us through our online enquiry form, free phone on 0800 008 7450, call our mobile friendly number 0333 2400340 or text "CURTIS" to 82727.