In striving to “protect the NHS”, we have instead placed it under record levels of pressure. The number of people waiting to start hospital treatment in England alone continues to rise and has passed five million for the first time. The number waiting for more than a year remains significantly higher than before Covid – and lockdowns – began. The number of people who actually require treatment will be higher still since many are expected to be living with undiagnosed diseases, such as breast cancer, having been reluctant to burden the health service with check-ups during the pandemic. The Guardian has more.
NHS England’s latest set of monthly performance figures, published on Thursday, show that the waiting list stood at 5,122,017 in April – up 171,720 in a month.
The total has risen from the 4.95 million who were on it in March, which was itself almost 252,000 up on the 4.698 million recorded in February – a month-on-month rise of 5.4%.
The number of people being forced to wait at least a year for treatment in hospital, especially surgery, has fallen for the first time in over a year but remains a serious problem. Thursday’s figures also show that 385,490 people have now been waiting more than 52 weeks, 50,637 down on the 436,127 who were in that position last month.
Such long waits are a new phenomenon. In contrast, in March last year – before Covid triggered a suspension of much NHS care – just 3,097 patients had faced such an unusually long delay.
Ministers, NHS chiefs, medical groups and health charities are worried that growing numbers of patients are facing lengthening waits for vital care including cancer treatment, a hip or knee replacement, heart operations and surgery to remove cataracts to improve eyesight.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: Professor Karol Sikora, on Lucy Johnston’s “Sketch notes on a pandemic” podcast, says: “I’ve been working in oncology for nearly 50 years and I’ve never seen a crisis like this before.”