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PEOPLE living in poorer regions of England face longer waits for routine NHS care, new analysis has revealed.
The backlog has grown to 5.61 million people, equal to almost one person in every 10 in England.
New analysis from health think tank the King’s Fund shows people living in the most deprived areas in England are 1.8 times as likely to experience a wait of over one year for hospital care compared with people from the most affluent.
Seven per cent of patients on waiting lists in the most deprived areas of the country have been waiting a year or more for treatment compared with 4 per cent of those in the least deprived.
From April 2020 to July 2021, waiting lists have grown by 55 per cent on average in the most deprived parts of the country compared with 36 per cent in the richest areas.
The analysis comes as a poll from Healthwatch England showed the toll the waiting list is having on people’s physical and mental health.
Former nurse Sybil Williams, 86, from Minehead in Somerset, said that she “couldn’t go on any longer” and felt suicidal while waiting 17 months for her hip replacement.
Ms Williams had a lower leg amputated in 2008 and was waiting for hip replacement surgery on her “good” leg when the pandemic struck.
She was referred to hospital in October 2019, but the surgery was delayed, and she was not told when she would have her treatment or provided with any support as she waited in pain.
“The waiting time was dreadful,” she said. “I was in constant pain and at times thought I couldn’t go on any longer.
“Due to my amputated leg, I use mobility aids to get around, but I developed a shoulder injury that was so painful I couldn’t move.
“I had lost a lot of my independence and had to turn to painkillers to ease my pain while waiting for surgery.”
The King’s Fund chief analyst Siva Anandaciva called on the government to focus on tackling health inequalities and avoid a one-size-fits-all approach when taking action on the backlog.
An NHS spokesperson said that staff have made effective use of additional resources to cut average waiting times over the last year.
The figures will feature on Panorama this evening at 19.35pm on BBC1.
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