NHS urged to routinely publish non-hospital waiting lists

The ‘hidden’ NHS waiting list: More than a MILLION patients are stuck in queue for non-hospital care such as physiotherapy

  • A record 6.6m people in England are stuck in the queue for routine hospital ops
  • But data shows there’s another growing backlog for community health services
  • The extra 1million figure includes 321,000 people waiting for musculoskeletal services, such as physiotherapy

More than one million people are waiting on a ‘hidden’ NHS waiting list for routine treatment, it emerged today.

A record 6.6million people in England are currently stuck in the queue for hospital care, like hip and knee ops and cataracts surgery.

The figure has spiralled since Covid struck, and health chiefs fear it will continue to spiral for another 18 months.

But leaked data, seen by the Health Service Journal, shows there’s another growing backlog of patients needing community health services.

The figure, which isn’t routinely published, includes 321,000 people who’re waiting for musculoskeletal services, such as physiotherapy.

The NHS backlog for routine treatment grew from 6.4million to 6.6million in May, the latest month with data, meaning one in eight people in England are now waiting for elective care, often in pain

NHS guidelines set out that all patients should be treated within 18 weeks of being referred. But at the worst-performing hospitals as little as four in 10 patients began treatment within the four-month target. The Countess of Chester Hospital trust (44 per cent) and Buckinghamshire Healthcare trust (47 per cent) did only slightly better than University Hospitals Birmingham trust (43 per cent). The remaining trusts, University Hospitals of Leicester, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and Manchester University, managed to hit the 50 per cent threshold. Rounding out the top 10 poorest performing, the Hillingdon Hospitals trust, Royal Devon University Healthcare trust and Torbay And South Devon trust saw 52 per cent of patients within four months

Concern over waiting list not routinely published by NHS (PA)

Leading physiotherapists called for more transparency over the data and more to be done to fully restore services after the Covid crisis.

Professor Karen Middleton, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, said: ‘These figures demonstrate what we’ve been warning about for some time – that the failure to fully reopen physiotherapy services is having an awful impact on patients.

‘If services do not have access to the space, equipment and staff they require, they cannot provide the level of rehabilitation patients need or shorten waiting times.

‘The focus on waiting lists for surgery is understandable but those same lists could lengthen without urgent support for community services.’

She added: ‘We need greater transparency from NHS England over waiting times in the community, as we get in the devolved countries.

‘It’s essential that we know how many people need treatment and how long they are waiting if we are to deliver the quality of care that is needed.’

Experts called for the Government to tackle the backlog with the ‘same energy and urgency given to driving down elective care waiting lists’. 

The HSJ reported that some 1.04 million people are waiting for community services in England, including nearly 300,000 children.

Some 75,000 children are waiting for community paediatric services, which provide help to youngsters with additional needs, developmental concerns, or medical and long-term health conditions.

A similar number of youngsters are waiting for speech and language therapy.

An NHSE spokesperson said: ‘Demand for NHS mental health services has risen to record levels over the last two years with the pandemic taking a significant toll on the nation’s wellbeing.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are working hard to tackle the covid backlogs to ensure people get the support they need across a wide range of health services.’

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