NHS hospital wait times above 18 weeks at a third of departments | Hospitals | The Guardian

2022-09-03 01:26:42 By : Mr. Mr Dai

New data shows average waits for treatment at some hospitals in England are above 30 weeks

Nearly 40% of NHS hospital departments in England have average treatment waiting times above 18 weeks – with average waits at some well over 30 weeks, according to Observer analysis of NHS data.

In England, the NHS Constitution sets out that patients should wait no more than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment. But analysis of hospital waiting time data published on the NHS My Planned Care site shows that 813 out of 2,148 specialties at hospital trusts in England had average wait times for non-cancer treatment of more than 18 weeks in mid-August – 38% in total.

The figures reflect the impact of the pandemic in delaying treatment, and the difficulties the NHS faces delivering treatment now as it grapples with crises in bed and staff availability.

Some specialties are particularly affected. Nearly two-thirds of hospital orthopaedics services, 80% of hospitals performing spinal surgery and 70% of hospitals carrying out upper gastrointestinal surgery are missing the target.

“Prolonged waiting has a significant impact on patients’ mental and physical health,” said Professor John Skinner, president of the British Orthopaedic Association. “These operations are not optional, and patients do not get better without them. Patients in severe pain lose mobility, their health deteriorates, they lose the ability to work and require more GP support and increasingly rely on stronger and stronger painkillers. Patients can lose their independence.”

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England said: “When emergency departments get really busy, and when you can’t discharge patients who are ready to leave either, you have to use the surgical beds, and planned operations get cancelled. Patients who have been waiting months or years in pain find their operation is cancelled at the last minute. It’s incredibly frustrating for the surgical teams hoping to treat them and it causes huge distress to patients.”

He called for investment in surgical hubs – ring-fenced sites for planned surgery that are less affected by other pressures. “As we can see in these data, in some areas all the hospitals are struggling. Choice only works if patients have reasonable options to choose from. A programme to establish more surgical hubs is under way, and we hope to see more hubs created over the next year to bring down long waits in areas that desperately need ring-fenced surgical capacity.”

The NHS target is for 92% of patients to be treated within 18 weeks of referral. Government data shows that in June, just 62% of patients were treated within that time.

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, said: “After 12 years of Conservative mismanagement, patients are waiting longer than ever for treatment, often in pain and discomfort. The Conservatives use Covid as an excuse, but we went into the pandemic with the longest waiting lists on record, 100,000 staff shortages in the NHS and 17,000 fewer hospital beds than in 2010. As Nadine Dorries admitted, the Conservatives left the health service ‘wanting and inadequate’ when Covid struck.”

Almost 90% of specialties have average waits above 18 weeks at two trusts – Lancashire teaching hospitals and Countess of Chester hospital. Many of their departments have average waits above 30 weeks. Lancashire teaching hospitals said it had made significant progress in seeing those waiting longest and was opening new treatment facilities. Countess of Chester hospital said it had met targets to treat all patients waiting more than two years and was on track to see all patients waiting longer than 18 months by next April.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Across the country as a whole, we have virtually eliminated waits of more than two years for treatment – the first major target in our elective recovery plan. We have committed record levels of money to help the NHS beat the Covid backlogs and tackle long waits.

“This additional resource is for example going to pay for over 50 new surgical hubs across the country, providing at least 100 more operating theatres and 1,000 more beds, and delivering almost two million extra routine operations to reduce waiting lists over the next three years.”