NHS waiting lists hit record high as 5MILLION wait for treatment
ENGLAND'S NHS waiting list has topped 5million for the first time since records began, new figures have revealed.
Over a quarter of a million Brits have waited more than a year to start hospital treatment, data from NHS England showed.
Around 385,490 had to wait over a year with 5.12 million still being on the waiting list at the end of April.
Experts today warned that delays on this scale can "cost lives" as many appointments have been pushed back due to the pandemic.
In England, A&E attendances last month was 65 per cent higher than a year ago.
NHS England said this is a reflection of lower-than-usual numbers for May 2020, which were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In May this year a total of 2.08 million attendances were recorded up from 1.26 million in May 2020.
The equivalent figure for May 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 2.17 million.
TACKLE THE BACKLOG
Dr Nick Scriven, past president of the Society for Acute Medicine said the new data is the result of a lack of "preparedness for the inevitable".
He said the warning signs for where the NHS was heading had been obvious for years and that the service has "major problems".
"We are in a dire state when it comes to record numbers of people waiting for treatment, but we must also remember the four-hour emergency access target has not been met for years now with little to no change in approach", Dr Scriven said.
In order to tackle this, experts have said more funding is needed.
Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation said local services need more resources and support to evaluate new approaches to tackling the backlog.
"Making incremental improvements to business as usual, while important, will not be enough to address a challenge of this scale", he added.
The number of people admitted for routine treatment was also found to be five times the number of a year earlier.
In April the figures was 223,780 up from 41,121 a year before.
The equivalent figure for April 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 280,209.
This reflects lower than usual figures due to the pandemic as Brits were told to stay at home to protect the NHS.
This lead to cancellations and some patients didn't want to attend due to concerns around the virus and burdening the NHS.
It was previously reported that one in three people had avoided seeing theirGP due to concerns around Covid.
Emergency admissions to A&E departments in England also showed a rise last month, up from 398,406 in May 2020 to 543,754.
The equivalent figure for May 2019, a non-pandemic year, was 547,382.
The figures also revealed that 230,278 patients were also waiting for invasive heart procedures and heart operations – the highest number since the pandemic began.
Over 55,000 had been waiting over 18 weeks – that’s nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of everyone waiting for a heart surgery or procedure at the end of April.
The British Heart Foundation said some people have been waiting for treatment for two years.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation and Consultant Cardiologist said that despite the NHS doing all it can, the pandemic is still causing disruption to routine appointments
“Delays to vital heart care can cost lives. Tragically, we have already seen thousands of extra heart disease and stroke deaths in England during the pandemic, and monumental delays to care have likely contributed.
“Today’s figures may signal green shoots of recovery, but there’s a long way to go. Support for heart disease care is needed now to build back bigger, better, and fairer. A clear plan and further ongoing investment is urgently needed to help the health service tackle the backlog and beyond", she said.
The NHS England figures also show that a total of 209,452 urgent cancer referrals were made by GPs in England in April, more than double the number in April 2020, which was 80,031.
The equivalent figure for April 2019 was 199,217.
Urgent referrals where breast cancer symptoms were present – though not initially suspected – were up from 3,866 in April to 14,259 in April 2021.
Alexandra Callaghan, Policy Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support said NHS cancer care is "beset by a chronic shortage of staffing and resources".
She explained that the government needs to do more to fix the problem and must deliver a fully-funded plan for the NHS workforce.
This she says will help manage the challenges that lie ahead for cancer care.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said: "Despite the extensive disruption to care caused by the pandemic, it's encouraging that today's figures show routine operations, cancer and mental health care have now all rebounded sharply.
"Average waits for non-urgent care have fallen to 11 weeks, and the number of people waiting over 52 weeks fell by more than 50,000 in April.
"Mental health services are back at pre-pandemic levels, and treatment rates for cancer are also now back to usual levels, with nearly nineteen out of twenty people starting treatment for the disease within one month."
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