The latest National Health Service, UK, performance data shows the waiting list for consultant-led hospital treatment in England has once again decreased, reaching 7.6 million by the end of November 2023.
The total waiting list of 7,609,941 patients includes those awaiting treatments such as hip replacements or surgeries to remove cancerous tumors. Approximately 6.4m patients were in the queue for treatment at the conclusion of November 2023.
The data highlights 94,563 pathways where patients were waiting for more than 65 weeks to start treatment, indicating a reduction of 12,870 compared to October 2023. The government aims to eliminate all waits exceeding 65 weeks by the end of March 2024.
Commenting on the NHS data, Prof Fiona Myint, Senior Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, says, "The NHS in England has recently faced one of the most challenging periods in its history. Although the data predates this period, it underscores the precarious situation our health service was already in. Many patients continue to worry about their health and treatment timelines."
"Surgical teams are dedicated to patients, but resources are still stretched. Despite some improvement, meeting Rishi Sunak's target of eliminating waits over 65 weeks by March 2024 will be challenging. The government must invest more in recruitment, operating theaters, and surgical beds to address the backlog," Prof Myint added.
She also mentions the positive news about NHS expanding surgical hubs, providing ring-fenced beds and operating theaters to protect planned surgeries from emergency pressures. This move, she says, aims to offer patients more certainty about their scheduled operations.
Prof Myint stresses the importance of creating a supportive and well-resourced working environment for NHS staff. This, she believes, will reduce burnout, enhance morale, and empower healthcare professionals to tackle and reduce waiting lists effectively.