According to some estimates the waiting list could go up at least 50% or almost double before it starts to fall back again.
10 February 2022
The waiting list for NHS treatment continues to grow, new figures show, while the number of people enduring long waits in A&E has hit a record high.
New data from NHS England shows a record 6.1 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of December – the highest number since records began in August 2007.
It comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid set out plans to help the NHS in England recover from Covid-19, although he has admitted the number of people waiting will continue to rise for another two years.
Some estimates suggest the waiting list could go up at least 50% or almost double before it starts to fall back again.
Among those on the waiting list are people needing scans and tests, hip and knee operations, and cataract surgery.
Thursday’s data shows that the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at 310,813 in December, up from 306,996 in the previous month and 39% higher than the number in December 2020.
The Government and NHS England have set an ambition of eliminating all waits of more than a year by March 2025.
A total of 20,065 people in England were also waiting more than two years to start routine hospital treatment at the end of December, up from 18,585 at the end of November and around eight times the 2,608 people who were waiting longer than two years in April last year.
As part of Mr Javid’s pledges, all waits of more than two years, except when it is the patient’s choice, will be eliminated by this July.
The new data further shows that a record 16,558 people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England in January from a decision to admit to actually being admitted.
The figure is up from 12,986 in December and is the highest for any calendar month since records began in August 2010.
Some 122,427 people waited at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission in January, another all-time high and up from 120,218 in December.
Overall, 74.3% of patients in England were seen within four hours at A&Es in January, up slightly from 73.3% in December but down on the 78.5% in January 2021.
Although it is being scrapped, the current target is for at least 95% of patients attending A&E to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. This has not been met nationally since 2015.
Meanwhile, the number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England in December was 225,912 – up 18% from a year earlier (191,541), although this reflects lower-than-usual figures due to the the Covid-19 pandemic.
The equivalent figure for December 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 252,228.