NHSE&I released statistics on referral to treatment (RTT) waiting times for elective care. Key finding include:

  • Patients on the overall NHSE waiting list for 52 weeks or more rose from 224,205 in December to 304,044 in January, prior to the pandemic in February 2020 this number was 1,613.
  • Around 8% of patients are now waiting at least a year for elective care in five specialties, these are: general surgery, orthopaedics, ear nose and throat, oral surgery, and plastic surgery.
  • 4.59 million patients are on the waiting list – the highest number since records began in August 2007, this is expected to increase throughout 2021.

Key patient backlog developments

  • One Cancer Voice, a coalition of 47 UK cancer charities, warned that the UK’s cancer death rate will increase for the first time in decades without urgent action. The group are calling for more staff to be available to diagnose and treat cancer, with greater NHS access to private facilities to “clear the backlog”.
  • NHSE’s Cancer Director, Dame Cally Palmer commented it could take another year for the level of cancer treatments and diagnosis carried out to return to normal. Activity over the past year had been 89% of the previous year, but NHSE is committed to returning to 2019 levels by March 2022.
  • The NHS Confederation believes NHSE could be facing a hidden waiting list of 6 million people who have not come forward or been referred for elective care due to COVID. New analysis shows the “true demand” could be much larger when referrals for treatment, such as from GPs, begin to increase again, having dropped by 30% last year.