Hospital Dr News

NHS performance deteriorates as pandemic continues, figures show

Waiting times are increasing as the NHS struggles to deliver normal services during the Covid pandemic, the latest NHS England statistics reveal.

At least 162,000 patients are waiting more than a year for routine NHS operations, the highest number for more than 12 years.

The total NHS waiting list for routine treatments reached 4.4 million at the end of October, with more than a third of patients waiting more than 18 weeks – the NHS target for waiting times, from referral to treatment.

BMA council deputy chair Dr David Wrigley called for additional funding.

He said: “The latest set of NHS performance stats highlights the huge challenge that lies ahead in trying to clear the enormous backlog of care and bringing down the waiting lists, which have been significantly exacerbated by the pandemic.

“It is quite frankly alarming that the number of patients waiting more than a year for care is now 123 times higher than last October – the highest since May 2008. These are patients in pain, distress and needing treatment.

“There is no doubt we are in a worse position than this time last year and the NHS now faces unparalleled pressures this winter as we deal with the pandemic, a growing backlog and the annual seasonal pressures.”

The NHS is also seeing a drop across many key cancer performance targets since last year, which is raising concerns over the welfare of these often seriously ill patients.

GPs made a total of 203,704 urgent cancer referrals in England during October, eight per cent down from a year before.

Urgent referrals for breast cancer symptoms were down from 16,232 in October 2019 to 12,148 in October 2020, a fall of 25 per cent.

Gargantuan challenge

Dr Layla McCay, director at the NHS Confederation, said: “The latest performance figures for the NHS in England demonstrate the gargantuan scale of the challenge facing the health service in the coming weeks and months.

“While the rollout of the vaccine has provided a ray of hope, we all know it will take some months to distribute to the wider population. While details were welcome of how funding will be allocated for upgrades and refurbishment of hospitals, we also need to see greater investment in people, to help fill the 87,000 vacancies across the NHS.”

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