Year-long waits for routine treatment at new high

The number of patients left waiting a year or more for routine treatment at a number of Black Country and Staffordshire hospital trusts rocketed to record highs, new figures have revealed.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England says “a huge, hidden waiting list is building” across the nation under lockdown.

NHS rules state that patients referred for non-urgent consultant-led elective care should start treatment within 18 weeks.

But NHS statistics show 2,097 patients listed for elective operations or treatment at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust at the end of November had been waiting for at least 52 weeks.

This was the highest figure for the month for the trust since comparable records began in 2011 – by the end of November the previous year, no patients had faced such lengthy delays.

At the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, 641 patients listed for elective operations or treatment at the end of November had been waiting at least 52 weeks. This was also the highest figure for the month since comparable records began.

The statistics show 827 patients listed for elective operations or treatment at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust at the end of November had been waiting for at least 52 weeks. This was compared to none in November 2019, and was also more than the 674 who had waited that long at the end of October.

At the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, 27 patients at the end of November had been waiting for at least 52 weeks. This was the highest figure for the month since 2011 – and by the end of November the previous year, no patients had faced such lengthy delays.

'Calamitous'

And, 37 patients listed for elective operations or treatment at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust at the end of November had been waiting for at least 52 weeks. This was compared to none in November 2019, and was also more than the 14 who had waited this long at the end of October.

Across England, the number of people waiting a year or more hit 192,200, the highest figure since April 2008 and up from just 1,400 in November 2019.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the RCS, said the figures show the “calamitous impact” of Covid-19 on operation waiting times.

He said: “For thousands of people in this country a corrective operation is the best way to relieve debilitating pain and get them back up on their feet, back to work and enjoying life again.

“Many of us were complaining about the pain of the lockdown restrictions in November. However, we should remember all those people waiting for an operation who had their physical pain to deal with, on top of the pain of lockdown.

“A huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown. When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment.”

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