One-year waits for routine treatment at Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust hit record high
The number of patients left waiting a year or more for routine treatment at Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust in November rocketed to a record high for the month, figures reveal.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England says “a huge, hidden waiting list is building” across the nation under lockdown.
NHS rules state that patients referred for non-urgent consultant-led elective care should start treatment within 18 weeks.
But NHS statistics show 2,968 patients listed for elective operations or treatment at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust at the end of November had been waiting for at least 52 weeks.
This was the highest figure for the month since comparable records began in 2011 – by the end of November the previous year, no patients had faced such lengthy delays.
It was also more than the 2,469 who had been left waiting for this long in October.
Across England, the number of people waiting a year or more hit 192,200, the highest figure since April 2008 and up from just 1,400 in November 2019.
Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the RCS, said the figures show the “calamitous impact” of Covid-19 on operation waiting times.
“For thousands of people in this country a corrective operation is the best way to relieve debilitating pain and get them back up on their feet, back to work and enjoying life again,” he said.
“Many of us were complaining about the pain of the lockdown restrictions in November. However, we should remember all those people waiting for an operation who had their physical pain to deal with, on top of the pain of lockdown.”
Prof Mortensen added: “A huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown.
“When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment to treat all those who have been waiting patiently for treatment.”
At Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, 30,418 people were waiting to start hospital treatment at the end of November – a 5% rise from the end of October.
Across England, 4.46 million people were waiting at the end of the month – the highest number since records began.
This was compared to 4.42 million in November 2019 and 4.44 million in October.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “Despite 2020 being the year of Covid, nearly 20 million people received emergency care in England’s A&E departments, while in November alone as Covid-19 was spreading more rapidly, patients still benefited from 4 million important elective treatments and essential checks on the NHS.”
He said the figures were a stark reminder of the “exceptionally tough challenge” facing the health service.