13 July 2023

NHS waiting lists in England reach record high

13 July 2023

NHS waiting lists in England have climbed to a record high, new data has revealed.

Figures released on Thursday showed that 7.47 million people were waiting to start routine hospital treatment at the end of May, up from 7.42 million at the end of April.

It is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

Some 385,022 people had also been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment at the end of May, up from 371,111 at the end of April.

During the same period, 11,446 people were estimated to have been waiting 18 months to start treatment, down slightly from 11,477.

The Government and NHS England have set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than a year by March 2025.

It comes after Rishi Sunak said industrial action across the NHS is making it “more challenging” to bring down waiting lists.

The Prime Minister pledged to cut the figure earlier this year, when it stood at 7.2 million.

It is estimated that eight months of strikes has led to the cancellation or postponement of about 651,000 appointments and routine procedures.

Junior doctors walked out for five days from 7am on Thursday in the longest spell of industrial action in the history of the health service.

They return to work at 7am on July 18 and 48 hours later consultants are set to strike for two days. Radiographers across 43 NHS trusts will also walk out for two days from July 25.

On Thursday, the chief executive of one NHS trust said mounting backlogs and pressure caused by strikes are leading to rising tensions among workers.

They added: “I don’t think you can underestimate the tensions and the potential risk of division that this creates, between leaders and staff, but also amongst staff themselves.”

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, also called industrial action a “black cloud” hanging over the health service, which is currently in the “most challenging period of operational pressure”.

A total of 245,595 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in May, up 13% on 218,060 in April and up slightly (0.1%) year-on-year from 245,449 in May 2022.

The proportion of cancer patients who saw a specialist within two weeks of being referred urgently by their GP rose from 77.7% in April to 80.8% in May, but remained below the target of 93%.

The 93% target was last hit in May 2020, during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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