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NHS waiting lists hit new high as calls for more staff continues

The number of people waiting for procedures such as hip replacements and cataract surgery climbed to 6.4 million at the end of March.

NHS England waiting lists for those expecting routine treatment have hit yet another new high, official data revealed today, leading to repeated calls for more health and social care staff.

The total number of people on waiting lists for procedures such as hip replacements and cataract surgery stood at 6.4 million at the end of March, up from 6.2 million in February and the highest number since records began in 2007, NHS England figures show.

While the data showed that the number of people waiting more than two years has dropped for the second month in a row by 28 per cent, the figure is still more than six times higher than in April 2021.

The government and NHS England have set the ambition in the elective recovery plan of eliminating all waits of more than two years, except when it is the patient’s choice, by July.

But the number of people having to wait more than a year to start hospital treatment in England increased from 299,478 in February to 306,286 in March.

NHS England said that increasing numbers of people were coming forward following the pandemic, with 1.8 million people referred for treatment in March.

It added that the drop in people waiting more than two years, and more than a year and a half showed that the NHS was making progress in its elective recovery plan goal to eliminate long waits.

Figures also showed that a record number of people had to wait more than 12 hours in A&E departments in April, the highest for any month in records going back to August 2010.

Keep Our NHS Public co-chairman Dr Tony O’Sullivan told the Star: “[The] NHS figures make for some deeply uncomfortable reading and further prove that this government are continually looking the other way when it comes to the NHS.

“A health service cannot meet the needs of the population without sufficient investment and, crucially, enough staff.

“It has been 19 years since a proper workforce plan was drawn up, and repeated pleas to address the staffing issue have fallen on deaf ears. Meanwhile, both patients and NHS workers continue to suffer the consequences.”

The King’s Fund think tank chief analyst Siva Anandaciva said that unless the government “grasps the nettle” on health and social care staffing shortages, patients will be left waiting in “discomfort, pain and deteriorating health.”

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