Steps that can help people waiting for NHS treatment

The latest figures from the NHS show that the number of people waiting for NHS treatment has increased by 180,000. Read our response.
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The latest figures from the NHS show that the number of people waiting for NHS treatment has increased to 6.36 million.

Although there has been some progress in reducing the number of people waiting over two years for treatment, a record number of people are now waiting for care.

Responding to the figures, our National Director, Louise Ansari, repeated our call for more to be done to support people waiting for treatment: 

“People know that NHS staff are working hard to clear the backlog in care, but patients also want more support while they wait.

“Too many of those waiting for care have told us that they have been left to cope with painful symptoms that worsen over time and that often they hear nothing from services and feel unclear about when they will get treatment.

“It’s great to see that longer waiting times are coming down. However, we need a greater focus on supporting those in pain to manage, enabling patients to tell services when their symptoms get worse and improving communication so patients don’t feel left alone to cope.”

What does the new data show?

The new NHS waiting times data shows that:

  • The total waiting list  increased by 180,000 between February and March of this year. 6.36 million people in total are now waiting for care. Waiting time numbers have been steadily rising since May 2020 and are now a record for the NHS elective waiting list.
  • The number of patients waiting over a year for treatment has increased by 6,808.
  • The number of patients waiting over two years for treatment has decreased by 6,485
  • The median wait has decreased by 1.1 weeks.

What could help?

Our last report on the issue recommended several steps to help manage the NHS waiting times backlog, including:

  • Improving support while people wait, for example, help with pain management, physiotherapy and mental health.
  • Recruiting more administrative staff and improving systems to tackle the administrative mistakes that can add to how long people wait. For example, avoiding being booked in with the wrong service or person.
  • Improving communication, so people get updates, don’t feel forgotten and can tell services when their condition changes.
  • Promoting services such as NHS111 First so people can access services and avoid waits for urgent care

What is it like waiting for care?

We analysed the stories of more than 2,500 people about their experiences, helping us to dig beneath the headlines and support the NHS to make good policy decisions. Read the experiences people shared with us, and the steps they think would help them while waiting for care.

Read our research

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