NHS waiting list hits record level for fifth month in a row

Nusrat Ghani

Latest data shows around a thousand people a month are now being added to the backlog, as staff at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust [MTW] attempt to catch up following the Covid crisis.

At the end of July, there were 37,060 patients waiting for treatment at the Pembury based hospital or its sister site in Maidstone, according to latest NHS figures.

This is an increase of more than a thousand on last month when there were 35,995 people  waiting for treatments.

It is the fifth month in a row that the figures have broken records for the number of people on waiting lists at MTW.

March saw the highest levels since records began in August 2007, when 32,918 people were registered to start hospital treatment. And the figures have increased each month since. People are also being asked to wait longer.

Last month, 74 per cent of patients were being seen within 18 weeks. This has now fallen to 73 per cent. The operational standard is 92 per cent.

But just 50 people have been waiting over a year for surgery at MTW, which is a dramatic fall considering 1,000 people had been on the waiting list for more than 52 weeks back in April.

 Sean Briggs, Chief Operating Officer at MTW, said: “Throughout the pandemic we have continued to provide urgent and cancer treatment for our patients and we are making great progress with our elective recovery.

“Thanks to the incredible work of our staff, we now have less than 50 patients waiting more than 52 weeks for surgery, compared to over 1,000 patients in April, meaning we are now working at pre-pandemic levels which is good news for our patients who are awaiting treatment.”

Across the UK, a total of 5.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of July.

This is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The longest waits are for trauma and orthopaedic treatment such as hip and knee replacements, followed by general surgery such as gall bladder removals and hernia operations.

At MTW, there are currently 3,613 people waiting for orthopaedic or trauma surgery, with just 64 per cent of patients seen within 18 weeks – the government target is 92 per cent.

Waiting lists for non-urgent treatments have been on the rise since the pandemic began and hospitals across the UK had to funnel resources into combatting the virus.

Social distancing and other Covid precautions have also impacted on capacity numbers, resulting in MTW having to partner with private healthcare companies such as at Nuffield Health to get through the backlog of appointments.

The figures come after the government announced last week a 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance [NI] contributions – equating to a ten percent increase in NI payments from people’s wage packets – to help pay for the NHS backlog and the current social care crisis.

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