News and media

NHS fails to meet target to stabilise waiting lists

Date of publication: 9th May 2019

Categories: Latest news

In response to today’s NHS England performance figures which show the NHS has failed to meet its target to stabilise waiting lists for elective treatment, David Hare, Chief Executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said:

“Last year the NHS made a clear commitment to keep waiting lists for routine care stable and to halve the number of people waiting over 52 weeks for treatment – fully funded through allocations made in the Chancellor’s 2017 Budget.

“While it’s welcome that the number of people waiting over 52 weeks has successfully been halved, today’s figures show the NHS has fallen far short of stabilising the waiting list. Over 380,000 more people are now on the official waiting list. That’s a rise of 10% to over 4.2m people waiting. Even when taking into account those Trusts that have resumed reporting their waiting figures over the past year, we still see over 240,000 additional people waiting for much needed treatment – equivalent to the population of Brighton.

“These numbers paint a troubling picture about the ability of patients to access timely NHS care, particularly as these targets falls far short of the clear rights contained in the NHS Constitution for patients to be treated within 18 weeks for vital procedures such as hip operations and cataracts, a target which now hasn’t been met for over three years.

“While we welcome the recent NHS Long Term Plan commitments to increase the amount of planned surgery delivered year on year, including through making use of independent sector capacity, what we now need from NHS England is a clear delivery plan on how to get waiting times down. This must include utilising the spare capacity available in the independent sector and communicating much more effectively the legal rights that patients have to choose the best provider for them.

• Following the 2017 Autumn Budget announcement of an additional £1.6 billion for the NHS to make “significant inroads” in NHS waiting lists, in February 2018 the 2018/19 NHS Planning Guidance refresh was published stating how this additional money would be spent, including a target for:
• The Referral to Treatment (RTT) waiting list will be no higher in March 2019 than in March 2018
• The numbers nationally of patients waiting more than 52 weeks for treatment should be halved by March 2019 and locally eliminated wherever possible.
• NHS England figures published today show that the official number of patients waiting to start treatment at the end of March 2019 was 4,232,436. The same publication puts the official number of people waiting in March 2018 at 3,852,414. Because several Trusts do not report their waiting time figures, the estimated number of people waiting is 4,344,489 compared to 4,102,999 a year ago, with 1,154 now patients waiting more than 52 weeks.
• The last time the 18week RTT target was met was in February 2016.