Hospitals: Waiting lists in England hit staggering new record – when will they fall?

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Since the Covid pandemic was declared in the British Isles nearly two years ago, people awaiting surgery for routine operations have had to endure longer waiting lists. This is because resources from all departments of the NHS have been required to focus on treating patients with Covid. So, how bad a situation are the latest figures describing?

The latest Government data has revealed hospital waiting lists in England have reached six million for the first time.

In fact, around one in 20 of those on patient lists – for routine care such as knee and hip surgery – have been awaiting news for more than a year.

These figures are accurate for the end of November – before the Covid variant Omicron hit the UK.

Consequently, this number is likely to be significantly higher given the increased pressures that the NHS has come under in the past month.

Elsewhere, other data sets have revealed that in December, another unwanted record feat was achieved in the NHS.

During this month nearly 27 percent of patients arriving at an emergency department waited more than four hours to be seen.

Record delays also impacted the waiting time for patients on wards who were in need of a bed.

More than 120,000 – almost one in three of those admitted – spent more than four hours waiting for a bed.

Furthermore, nearly 13,000 waited more than 12 hours – another high since records began, in 2010.

In the same period ambulance crews struggled to reach patients on time with demand for their services reaching high levels.

On average, it took more than nine minutes to reach an immediately life-threatening callout in December.

Ordinarily, the target for crews to achieve this within is seven minutes.

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For emergencies such as strokes and heart attacks, it took more than 53 minutes on average.

Crews are trained so that they can attend such incidents in less than 18 minutes.

However, despite the concerns both figures demonstrated slight improvements compared with October’s performance levels.

Regional Director of the Royal College of Nursing, Patricia Marquis, said the NHS was clearly “struggling to treat patients safely”.

At previous points of the pandemic, the NHS has attempted to clear waiting lists when pressures have eased and it can ensure the safety of patients and staff.

However, while Covid continues to hospitalise high numbers of people it is likely that the number of individuals awaiting medical procedures will remain high.

In recent weeks, levels of Covid in the UK have reached unprecedented levels, owing to the continued spread of the Omicron variant.

However, daily case numbers have fallen gradually since a record for this measure was recorded on January 4 – 218,724 cases.

In the latest 24-hour-period, the UK reported a further 129,587 cases of the virus and 398 deaths within 28 days of returning a positive test result.

According to Government data, the number of deaths recorded on Wednesday is the highest the level has been since last February.

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