NHS waiting list hits record 4.7m after Covid pandemic

NHS waiting list hits record 4.7m after Covid pandemic… with almost half a million patients holding on for treatment for a YEAR

  • Doctors say the NHS ‘has been set back years’ after the backlog of those waiting more than 12 months reached 387,885 – up from just over 1,600 a year ago
  • More than a million patients had waited over six months by February
  • Experts warned chronically ill people had ‘reached the limit of their endurance’
  • Over 5,000 have been waiting a year for potentially life-saving heart surgery 

Hospital waiting lists have hit a record 4.7million – with almost 400,000 patients waiting a year for treatment.

Doctors say the NHS ‘has been set back years’ after the backlog of those waiting more than 12 months reached 387,885 – up from just over 1,600 a year ago.

More than a million patients had waited over six months by February, according to the latest NHS England figures.

Experts warned chronically ill people had ‘reached the limit of their endurance’, with more than 5,000 waiting a year for potentially life-saving heart surgery.

File photo of an NHS hospital ward. Doctors say the NHS ‘has been set back years’ after the backlog of those waiting more than 12 months reached 387,885 – up from just over 1,600 a year ago.

Millions faced ‘a year of uncertainty, pain and isolation’ waiting for operations, the Royal College of Surgeons said. It warned investment ‘on a scale last seen in the 2000s’ would be needed to get back on track.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson vowed to ensure the NHS gets ‘all the funding that it needs’ to tackle the backlog.

Urging people to take up appointments and get the treatment that they need, the Prime Minister said: ‘We have put about £92billion already extra into the NHS this year and we’re going to do whatever it takes. But the NHS has done an incredible job so far. I’ve no doubt that they’re going to be able to tackle this as well.’

NHS England figures showed that 152,642 people were admitted to hospital for routine treatment in February, down from 285,918 in February 2020 – a drop of 47 per cent.

In the same month, 327,663 patients had been waiting more than six weeks for a key diagnostic test such as an MRI scan or ultrasound.

The figures came as emergency admissions rose last month to 503,913 – up from 427,968 in March 2020. The slump in non-Covid care coincided with the latest wave of the pandemic with 140,000 patients in hospital with the virus during January and February – 35 per cent of the 400,000 coronavirus patients treated since the pandemic hit.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said treating Covid patients had ‘inevitably had an impact’ but staff ‘managed to deliver almost two million ops and procedures in the face of the winter wave’.

Sister Helen Golding checks a patient observations on a ward at Nevill Hospital in Wales

However, Sarah Scobie, of think-tank the Nuffield Trust, said: ‘With waiting lists now at the highest number since records began, it is clear that the NHS has been set back years as it faces a battle to clear these major backlogs of postponed care.

‘Returning to the levels of activity seen before March last year will not be enough to meet demand, and we will continue to live with coronavirus for years to come.’

The Society of Acute Medicine said pressure is ‘high and growing despite the fall in Covid cases’.

Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the body, said: ‘It is becoming clearer that people with chronic illness, such as heart failure, have struggled on throughout the pandemic with community care but have now reached the limit of their endurance and now need hospital inpatient care.’

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