Hospital waiting times reached a new record high in March, according to data released by the National Health Service. A total of 6.4 million people were in line for routine NHS treatment that month, which is the equivalent to around one in nine of England’s population. The kinds of surgeries considered ‘routine’ or ‘elective’ included cataract surgeries and hip or knee replacements.
As our chart shows, waiting lists have been getting worse for the past decade. The Guardian cites Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, to explain why this is. They report: “The health service was struggling because of issues outside its control, namely a 10-year budget squeeze, lack of capacity in hospitals to treat the number of patients turning up, major staff shortages and inadequate provision of social care.”
It’s a problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, as the country saw a shortage of hospital workers and less urgent procedures bumped for people suffering from Covid. According to the new data, the number of people waiting more than two years for hospital care has increased in particular. While there was a drop in the size of this group from 23,281 in February to 16,796 in March, when looking at the wider trend, the March figure still constitutes a six-fold increase from April 2021.
The NHS and the UK government have pledged to eliminate waiting times that are more than two years by July 2022.