Although the number of patients waiting 18 months or more for treatment has declined slightly, analysis shows that the overall number of those on the waiting list continues to rise. 

Xyla, a specialist independent provider has issued its analysis of monthly data (RTT data) released by NHS England, which revealed that waiting lists for elective care have reached an all-time high. They show that there are now over seven million patients waiting to receive treatment – the equivalent of one in eight people in England. 

In February 2020, there were already 4.43 million people on waiting lists for elective care in England which has been drastically impacted with a substitution effect between Covid-related activity and ordinary inpatient and outpatient elective care activity. In addition, the pandemic has triggered higher NHS staff absence rates, leaving the workforce stretched thin.  

Xyla Elective Care, which has conducted the analysis, supports the NHS in meeting elective care targets by providing referral management and clinical capacity solutions across primary and secondary care.  

What does the data show?

In recent data released by NHS England, it is clear that waiting times have grown at a steady average of 2 per cent each month, resulting in the sum figure implying a yearly growth of 25 per cent. 

Source: Xyla Elective Care

Elsewhere, the NHS has made progress on some of its KPI targets. The graph below shows a continuation in the month-on-month decline of patients waiting over 18 months for treatment with the sum dropping to just below 51,000, compared to the 51,838 patients in July this year.  

Source: Xyla Elective Care

But despite this positive news, the rate in which these figures are falling has slowed from the previous two months. A decline in August was noted at 1.8 per cent, a drop from 9.7 per cent from the monthly variation of June 2022.
So, while the number of new patients waiting over 18 months has continued to fall, the slowing decrease could mean that numbers begin to rise again in the coming months.
Figures for those waiting over 12 months for treatment has also risen, with the total sat at over 387,000 people, an increase of 2.5 per cent over the previous month and more than 375 times the amount of people pre-pandemic in July 2019. Unlike those on the over-18-months list, however, the rate of growth for this backlog has decreased, with July’s monthly variation sat at 6.1 per cent. 

Source: Xyla Elective Care

The overall picture

Taking a bird’s eye view, the below table demonstrates the overarching trend the NHS is currently facing. It is clear that the majority of waiting lists have grown in comparison to July 2022, with a total 2.4 per cent increase occurring across the board. It also shows that the backlogs, which have decreased, have done so at a slower rate, like the aforementioned 18-months-waiters list. 

Source: Xyla Elective Care

Professor Matthew Cooke, Chief Medical Officer at Xyla Elective Care, said: “Currently NHS professionals are stretched due to increased demand as well as staff shortages – it is reported that one in ten posts are vacant. The latter result from both continuing high sickness, especially mental health and covid isolation.  

“Staff are exhausted and some are taking time to recover with career breaks, working abroad or are retiring early. Some are looking for more flexibility and control of their hours and so are moving to non-permanent roles.” 

“By working with Xyla Elective Care, NHS organisations can benefit from a fully managed service and additional workforces that don’t adversely impact on current staff and complement local teams.  

“Services like out of hours clinics can utilise existing NHS real estate at times when they’re not commonly used, freeing up NHS capacity while also providing patients with the flexibility to attend outpatient appointments outside of their working day and allowing existing staff to work less anti-social hours.”   

This article was kindly sponsored by Xyla Elective Care,

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