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Studies reveal increase in waiting times for surgery

Released on - 09/06/2017

Studies reveal increase in waiting times for surgery

A new study of waiting times information by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has discovered that in March 2017 the amount of patients waiting more than six months for treatment was 126,188 – a rise of 180% in four years. The year that waiting times were at the lowest was in 2013, 45,054 patients were waiting more than six months for treatment, which has rocketed in the last 4 years.

The RCS is declaring plans to frequently examine six and nine month waits in the NHS. This follows fears that no political party has set out a clear plan to deal with increasing waiting times, and because the 18-week aim for treatment has been deprioritised by the NHS. The health service can still be fined for patients failing to be treated within 12 months and only a small number of patients now wait longer than this. So the RCS expects more patients to be waiting six and nine months for surgery and other treatment over the next few years.

The data shows that patients awaiting some types of surgery were experiencing particularly strong rises in six or more month waits between March 2013 and March 2017 including: 

  • Ear, Nose and Throat – 256% rise
  • Urology – 199% rise
  • General surgery – 146% rise
  • Oral surgery – 146% rise
  • Brain and spinal surgery – 145% rise

Recent analysis by the Nuffield Trust shows no political party is promising increases in NHS funding which will meet the growing demands on the health system.

Miss Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, commented to the BBC: “With the 18-week target now being deprioritised, our concern is that we will see a fast deterioration in waiting times with tens of thousands of more patients waiting longer than six months for surgery. This is particularly the case when the Nuffield Trust think tank says none of the main political parties are promising increases in NHS funding which will meet the growing demands on the health system. Neither has any party set out a clear plan to deal with rising waiting times – it appears to be a blind spot. The Royal College of Surgeons will therefore now regularly monitor this data to assess the extent to which patients are waiting far too long for surgery.

“We are keen to work with the next Government and NHS England to look at how we can prevent patients waiting ever longer for their care. We are seriously short of overnight bed capacity in the NHS and this is a significant reason behind why waiting times are creeping up. When pressures in emergency departments rise, patients waiting planned surgery can have their operations cancelled or delayed until more space becomes available.

“In this election we urge all political parties to make timely access to surgery an urgent priority."

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