Following the reaction to a coronavirus the UK now has the largest ever NHS waiting list on record at 5.5 million people waiting for treatment. Of these patients, over 300,000 have been waiting for over 52 weeks.
To give some idea of the scale, according to the NHS figures during June 2021 alone 1,676,342 patients started a new referral to treat (RTT) pathway. This is an increase of 19.2% compared to the end of February 2020 (prior to Covid).
According to the private hospital providers, large numbers of otherwise NHS patients are now choosing to self-pay in order to receive the care they need sooner.
Responding to the latest NHS performance figures published today, David Hare, Chief Executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, said:
“Today’s figures show a significant increase in the number of people waiting for care, with the largest ever NHS waiting list on record at 5.5 million. And with well over 7.5 million “missing” people from the list who will need treatment, the Government must urgently set out a clear plan on how patient access to NHS care will be restored.
Serious impact of delaying treatment
Following some of the generally reported blunders in managing the SARS-CoV-2 situation, it is evident that a plan is now needed. Millions of people and patients have been affected by the temporary effective closure of hospitals, cancellation of operations, lockdown and the movement of staff away from their normal clinical function. Dealing with the impact of non-covid related illness and deaths is now a priority. As reported by the BMJ in back in January this year, this was becoming important even then “as it may suggest an increase in excess deaths [resulting from] indirect impacts of the pandemic upon health system pressures that impact care pathways for non-covid-19 conditions.” The situation has not improved.
Waiting lists should be top priority
David Hare goes onto say, “The scale of the challenge in tackling the backlog of care is enormous and it’s vital that an “all shoulders to the wheel” approach is taken, including a clear and sustained role for independent providers. However, as NHS Providers have made clear, the lack of clarity around funding for the NHS post September 2021 is severely hampering efforts to put in place long term NHS/ independent sector partnerships which will bring in much needed additional capacity to the NHS and help ensure patients get the care they need.
Can we please get to see a doctor?
“With the public consistently stating that bringing down waiting lists is their number one priority for the NHS, people need to be reassured that the Government is doing everything possible to tackle this significant challenge head on. A clear plan from the government setting out how the growing care backlog will be tackled cannot come soon enough.”
According to the private hospital providers, increasing numbers of NHS patients are choosing to self-pay in order to receive the care they need sooner. Some private chains are also substantially increasing their local NHS contracting.