New NHS England figures released today (14 January 2021) show that at the end of November 2020, 4.46 million people were waiting to begin consultant-led treatment, with just 68.2 per cent starting treatment within 18 weeks, falling substantially short of the 92 per cent standard. More than 192,000 had been waiting over a year.
At the end of November 2020, the median waiting time was 10.4 weeks.
Surgical specialties had the longest waiting lists, ranging from nine weeks for cardiothoracic surgery to 14.5 weeks for Ear Nose Throat and 15 weeks for oral surgery. The proportions seen within the 18 weeks target were 72 per cent, 57.4 per cent, and 55.5 per cent, respectively.
Among the medical specialties, the longest waiting time was for ophthalmology, with a median wait of over 11 weeks and only 66 per cent starting treatment within the 18-week target. The highest were for gastroenterology (9.6 weeks), gynaecology (9.7 weeks) and general medicine (9 weeks).
Commenting on the statistics, Professor Ravi Mahajan, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists said the figures are a stark reminder of the enormous impact the pandemic is having on planned procedures. We must invest in the NHS to increase its resilience.
“The challenge of treating COVID has been significant, but the knock-on effects from increased waiting times will be even more devastating for patients and the NHS," he said.
“While the vaccine is a light on the horizon, we still have a long road ahead," he cautioned and stressed that remaining focused on the hands, face, space rules, taking a free test, and staying at home, will help NHS staff to reduce waiting lists and potentially save thousands of lives.