Health and Wellbeing
Increasing Surgery Wait Times Across Britain
New data reveals that the overall average waiting time for General Surgery across all NHS Foundation Trusts in the UK is approximately 19.45 weeks which is more than 4 months. As over a third (37%) of those aged 65 and over feel inadequately supported while awaiting healthcare services, Oak Tree Mobility has investigated the impact of a growing NHS waiting list on the UK’s elderly population.
While NHS England's standard target for non-urgent, consultant-led treatments is 18 weeks, the top 10 Trusts with the longest waiting times report averages ranging from 33.56 to 58.91 weeks, starkly exceeding this benchmark. In contrast, the Trusts with the shortest waiting times, between 4.75 and 12.25 weeks, comfortably meet the NHS standard. This discrepancy highlights a notable variability in service delivery across different Trusts.
The protracted waiting periods are particularly distressing for elderly patients, who often require more immediate and comprehensive care. NHS data from October 2023 reveals that while a large number of patients (991,389) began treatments within the 18-week target, significant numbers (377,618 waiting over a year and 107,433 over 65 weeks) still face prolonged waits.
The Current State of Wait Times
According to a recent State of Care survey, 39% of patients on waiting lists hoped for earlier admissions, with 41% feeling their health deteriorated during the wait. The situation is more dire for the elderly, with over a third (37%) of those aged 65 and over feeling inadequately supported while awaiting healthcare services. This translates to around 800,000 older individuals in England who do not feel well supported during their prolonged wait for medical attention.
Behind every number lies a patient's story of waiting, often in discomfort or pain, for essential treatment. These delays, particularly pronounced in deprived areas, not only highlight systemic issues within healthcare but also remind us of the individual lives impacted by each day added to the wait.
Here are the top 10 NHS Foundation Trusts with the longest average waiting times for General Surgery Service:
|Provider Org Name
|Average Waiting Time (in weeks)
|DORSET COUNTY HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|LIVERPOOL UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|ROYAL FREE LONDON NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|SOUTH WARWICKSHIRE UNIVERSITY NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|WEST SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|YORK AND SCARBOROUGH TEACHING HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|MANCHESTER UNIVERSITY NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|HAMPSHIRE HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|CHELSEA AND WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|IMPERIAL COLLEGE HEALTHCARE NHS TRUST
The data exhibits a significant variability in average waiting times across different NHS Foundation Trusts. The longest average waiting time is at Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, with patients waiting approximately 58.91 weeks, which is 13 months.
This wide range in waiting times, spanning over 25 weeks between the highest and the lowest, points to notable disparities in service levels and patient care efficiency among these NHS Trusts. Demonstrating an unfair “Post Code Lottery” when it comes to NHS treatment.
Here are the top 10 NHS Foundation Trusts with the shortest average waiting times for General Surgery Service:
|Provider Org Name
|Average Waiting Time (in weeks)
|TORBAY AND SOUTH DEVON NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|TAMESIDE AND GLOSSOP INTEGRATED CARE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|ROYAL BERKSHIRE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|THE NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|THE ROYAL MARSDEN NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|EAST CHESHIRE NHS TRUST
|UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|NORTHUMBRIA HEALTHCARE NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|SALISBURY NHS FOUNDATION TRUST
|DARTFORD AND GRAVESHAM NHS TRUST
All listed trusts have waiting times significantly shorter than the national average, suggesting efficient management and patient care in general surgery services.
The range of waiting times is relatively narrow, from 4.75 weeks at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust to 12.25 weeks at Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust. This indicates a level of consistency in service delivery across these top-performing trusts.
Procedures with the Longest Average Waiting Times
The recent data on NHS waiting times for various procedures presents a nuanced picture of the healthcare landscape. Among the procedures with the longest average waiting times, Oral Surgery Service tops the list, with patients facing an average wait of 19.09 weeks. This is closely followed by the Ear Nose and Throat Service, where the average waiting time stands at 18.89 weeks.
|Average Waiting Time (weeks)
|Oral Surgery Service
|Ear Nose and Throat Service
|Plastic Surgery Service
|Trauma and Orthopaedic Service
In contrast, the procedures with the shortest average waiting times present a different aspect of the healthcare system's efficiency. Elderly Medicine Service shows the shortest average waiting time at just 8.49 weeks, reflecting a relatively prompt response in this critical care area. Cardiothoracic Surgery Service follows with an average waiting time of 9.06 weeks.
|Average Waiting Time (weeks)
|Elderly Medicine Service
|Cardiothoracic Surgery Service
|Other - Other Services
|Other - Medical Services
Impact on Elderly Patients
The NHS is currently navigating a critical phase, facing a record-high backlog in healthcare services, with more than 7.7 million people waiting for treatment as of the latest reports. The IFS estimates that the peak of the waiting list could vary dramatically, ranging from 7.3 million to a staggering 10.8 million, depending on the percentage of these patients who resume seeking care.
The current NHS backlog has particularly profound implications for elderly patients. As a demographic that often requires more frequent and specialised healthcare, the elderly are disproportionately affected by delays in treatment. The prolonged wait times not only exacerbate existing health conditions but also significantly increase the risk of complications in older patients, who may have less resilience to health setbacks.
For elderly individuals, the wait for treatment is not just a delay; it's a period marked by increasing vulnerability, potential deterioration of chronic conditions, and a heightened sense of uncertainty and distress. This is particularly concerning considering the common health issues in the elderly, such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes, which require timely interventions to prevent worsening.
This situation serves as a call to action for elderly patients and their families to advocate for better healthcare services. It highlights the importance of community support, informed decision-making, and proactive engagement with healthcare providers to navigate these challenging times.
As the latest NHS data reveals, the escalating wait times for general surgery are more than a statistic; they're a stark reality for many, especially our elderly population. At Oak Tree, we're deeply concerned about the impact of these prolonged waiting periods, particularly on those aged 65 and over. It's distressing to see that over a third of elderly patients feel inadequately supported during these waits. These delays are not just numbers on a page; they represent real people, often in pain and discomfort, waiting for essential treatments. This situation underscores the need for more efficient healthcare solutions and a stronger support system for our elderly. We must advocate for and implement strategies that ensure our older adults are not just waiting for care, but receiving it in a timely and empathetic manner.
Data Source Identification: Our primary data source was the NHS England website, specifically the section dedicated to Referral to Treatment (RTT) Waiting Times for the fiscal year 2023-24. This data can be accessed at NHS RTT Waiting Times.
Data Extraction: We extracted the latest available datasets pertaining to RTT waiting times. This included detailed statistics on waiting times for different types of treatments and services across various NHS Foundation Trusts in the UK.
Data Filtering and Selection: We focused on data relevant to general surgery services, as this was the primary area of interest for our analysis. This involved selecting data specific to general surgery waiting times across all NHS Foundation Trusts, including the longest and shortest waiting times reported.
Comparative Analysis: We performed a comparative analysis of the waiting times across different Trusts. This involved comparing the reported average waiting times against the NHS England's standard target for non-urgent, consultant-led treatments, which is 18 weeks.