Newly released figures have revealed a deterioration in NHS waiting times. The number of NHS patients forced to wait more than six months for treatment has hit an all-time high while A&E’s performance has reached its worst June levels on record.
Just 86.4% of patients were seen within four hours, down from 90.8% 12 months ago.
Additionally, official figures show that the NHS waiting list has hit another record high with almost 4.4 million people now waiting for routine treatment.
Health service performance figures for May show 245,079 people spent more than half a year on the waiting list, with experts warning many will be “in pain and distress”.
Other statistics also revealed by NHS England show the number of A&E patients stuck on trolleys waiting for an inpatient bed has increased by 70% in a year. Official figures show there were a total of 119,320 trolley waits of more than four hours in May and June this year.
The latest figures show cancer patients are also being affected, with targets to treat patients in need of an urgent scan or surgery within 62 days being missed for nearly three-and-a-half years.
The Royal College of Nursing Director in England, Patricia Marquis, said the total 4.39 million waiting list did not come as a shock.
“Today’s statistics show that whether it’s a hospital treatment, a cancer diagnosis or care or a simple GP appointment, patients are having to wait longer and longer.”
Those included in the 4.39million on the waiting list are the ones who have been referred for surgery by a specialist but have not yet had the procedure.
In comparison, in 2018 there were 4.09 million people on the list, and in 2017 the figure was 3.81 million.
More than 1,000 patients have been waiting more than a year for their treatment – however this figure has slowly been decreasing over the past few months.
Summer months once provided breathing room for NHS providers to make vital improvements, but experts have said that the latest figures show “this is no longer the case”. Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said “Surgeons up and down the country have raised concerns that waiting times for planned operations continue to grow”
The deteriorating performance has been partly blamed on staff turning down extra shifts in fear of being hit with a huge tax bill.
New rules mean GPs and consultants are among those hit with tax rates of up to 90% on their total pension value if they earn more than £110,000 a year. Just weeks after ruling out reviewing the rules, ministers now say they will.
This week, TV journalist Susannah Thraves wrote about her own experiences on the NHS waiting list in The Guardian, saying “We’ve become so accustomed to seeing lengthening delays for NHS treatment that it’s easy to forget that behind those stats are people in pain and distress, relying on not much more than a hope that they will one day be given a date for their life-changing operation.”