The NHS waiting list for consultant-led hospital treatment in England has fallen again, down to 7.6 million at the end of November 2023, according to NHS performance data published in January.
The total waiting list was 7,609,941. Some patients are on multiple pathways and will be waiting for treatment ranging from hip replacements to surgery to remove cancerous tumours. An estimated 6.4 million patients were waiting to start treatment at the end of November 2023.
The data also show there were 94,563 pathways where a patient was waiting more than 65 weeks to start treatment at the end of November 2023. This is a decrease of 12,870 compared to October 2023. The Government’s target is to eliminate all waits of over 65 weeks by the end of March 2024.
Commenting on the data published today, Professor Fiona Myint, Senior Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “The NHS in England has just emerged from what will be remembered as one of the most challenging fortnights it has faced in its long history. Although the data published today pre-dates this period, it emphasises the already precarious situation our health service was in. These difficult circumstances mean that too many patients continue to be left worrying about their health and when they might receive treatment.
“Surgical teams are doing their utmost for patients, but resources remain stretched. Despite some improvement, it will still be hard to achieve Rishi Sunak’s target of eliminating waits of over 65 weeks by the end of March 2024. The government needs to invest further in recruitment, operating theatres, and surgical beds to see the backlog clear.
“It is good news for patients that NHS England is expanding surgical hubs. These centres protect planned surgery from emergency pressures, with ring-fenced beds and operating theatres. This also gives patients more certainty that their operations will go ahead as planned.
“Lastly, we cannot ignore the importance of providing a supportive, well-resourced working environment for NHS staff so that they feel valued. This will reduce burnout, improve morale, and help them get on with the task of cutting waiting lists.”
Source: Royal College of Surgeons of England