NHS England cuts treatment waits by two years, but 12-month delays soar | UK News

NHS England says the number of people waiting two years or more for treatment has been drastically reduced as part of its plan to address delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

However, waits of more than two years were so rare that the NHS only started publishing statistics on them in April 2021, our senior data reporter Daniel Dunford explains below.

And 200 times as many people have now been waiting for treatment for a year compared to before the pandemic – rising from 1,613 in February 2020 to more than 330,000 in May.

Providing an update, the health department said the first part of its elective recovery plan is for patients “expecting two years or more by the end of July.”

They needed “scans, check-ups, surgery and other routine treatments”.

All have been prioritized unless they “choose to wait longer” or “don’t want to move to be seen sooner”.

There was also another category of “very complex cases requiring specialized treatment”.

The NHS said there were more than 22,500 people who had been waiting for two years or more at the start of the year.

In addition, “another 51,000 people who would have missed two years at the end of July have also been treated.”

The list has now been reduced to “just 2,777, despite COVID and other pressures, of which 1,579 have chosen to defer treatment and 1,030 are very complex cases”, the NHS said.

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The next phase will focus on those who have been waiting for more than 18 months, said NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard.

Progress is being made, she commented, by using “innovative techniques and embracing pioneering technologies like robotic surgery”.

The health service has put in place “self-help agreements between systems to provide patients with the option of being transferred elsewhere,” Ms Pritchard said.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said “new community diagnostic centers and surgical centers” are being opened across the country.


It’s been a long time since NHS England has been able to give us any good news, so it’s nice to hear it’s close to achieving the first target it has set to clear the backlog COVID.

However, this achievement should be placed in context. Waits longer than two years were so rare that the NHS didn’t even start publishing statistics on them until April 2021.

Previously, the “longest waits” focused on those that lasted more than a year, and if we look at the latest figures released for these, at the end of May, it shows how much work to do.

Two hundred times as many people have been waiting for treatment for a year than before the pandemic – rising from 1,613 in February 2020 to more than 330,000 in May.

NHS England have made good progress on the first of many goals involved in clearing the COVID backlog, but it’s hard to underestimate how far the goal posts are from where they were before the start of the pandemic.

Read more: How the pandemic blew up the waiting list

Sky News will continue to analyze the health service’s health with our NHS tracker, where you can see the latest figures on free beds and waiting times for your local trust. The next update, covering waiting list data for June and A&E and ambulance figures for July, will be on Thursday morning.

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