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10million MORE patients in England are stuck on ‘hidden’ NHS waiting list, analysis suggests

  • Official figures show 6.7million people were waiting for elective surgery in June 
  • Data suggests up to 10.3million waiting for follow-ups were not included in list
  • Health service bosses today claimed they have ‘never seen this level of demand’ 

More than 10million additional patients are languishing on a hidden NHS waiting list that is not routinely published, analysis suggests.

Officially, the backlog for elective care, such as hip and knee replacements or cataract surgery, stood at 6.7million in England in June.

But Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have revealed a further 10.3million patients who are waiting for follow-up hospital care.

That list, vicodin oxycodone interaction which is not publicly available, includes patients who need post-operation treatment or checks, as well as those with long-term conditions who need regular follow-ups.

Patient rights groups slammed the figures, accusing the NHS of subjecting anxious patients to a ‘radio silence’ about the status of their treatment.

It comes after it emerged earlier this month another million patients not included in the NHS waiting list figures are waiting for non-hospital treatment like physiotherapy.

NHS leaders have blamed the long waits on record level of demand.

Left graph shows: The official NHS waiting list for elective surgery for patients waiting less than 18 weeks (light blue), between 18 weeks and a year (dark blue), between a year and two yeas (light red) and more than two years (dark red). Right graph shows: The official NHS waiting list (blue) compared to the estimated number patients waiting for a follow-up appointment after surgery who are not included in official data (red)

By Victoria Allen, Science Correspondent for The Daily Mail 

Nearly 500 GP practices have permanently shut in the last decade without being replaced, according to stark figures unearthed in an investigation.

It means almost 1.5million people have been forced to travel further afield to seek treatment because new surgeries haven’t opened in their postcode area.

The research also shows that traditional family doctor-patient relationship is being lost because the average practice that shut treated fewer people in the vicinity.

Doctors’ magazine Pulse found 474 surgeries have closed in the UK since 2013, without being replaced.

A snapshot of 162 found retirement, resignations and problems recruiting were the final blow for 42 per cent of closures.

Earlier this year, analysis found half of England’s small GP surgeries had closed in the past decade, but this is the first to look at whether they were replaced.

While some areas might have gained a GP surgery in their wider local area, Pulse said new practices open much less often than existing ones close.

The new investigation found the average surgery lost since 2013 had an average patient list of 2,738 people, whereas practices today typically have more than 9,000 on their books. 

Small surgeries are among the most popular, according to patient satisfaction surveys.

The latest hidden waiting list figures, compiled by The Times, come from data from 96 health service trusts out of 184 that responded to FOIs.

They show 6.35million patients were referred for a follow-up hospital appointment by their GP but were not captured in the regular monthly waiting list numbers. 

When scaled up to all 184 trusts in England, that suggests up to 10.3million patients could be stuck waiting for post-operative treatment or other referrals.

Louise Ansari, national director at the patient group Healthwatch England, said patients are left ‘often feeling forgotten’ because of the long waits.

She told The Times: ‘Waiting a long time for treatment can put a huge strain on patients and their loved ones. 

‘But this can be so much worse when there is “radio silence” from the NHS, leaving people uncertain if their referral has been accepted, unclear about how long they may have to wait and often feeling forgotten.’

But the NHS said teams ‘are working incredibly hard to provide care to those who need it’.

A spokesperson said: ‘All patients are able to access information and support for their condition through the new My Planned Care app as well as that provided by their care team.

‘And [they] have the option to move to a different provider to be seen quicker.’

The analysis did not detail how long patients were kept without a follow-up appointment on the secondary waiting lists.

But official NHS data shows the number waiting for more than 18 weeks for elective surgery has soared since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. 

NHS targets state patients should wait no longer than four-and-a-half months for treatment after being referred by their GP.

Yet more than 2.5million people were waiting more than 18 weeks in June — 37 per cent of all referred for treatment.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation — which represents NHS bosses — admitted the health service is ‘often not able to provide the level of service that we want to provide’.

He told Times Radio: ‘Unfortunately, given the kinds of pressures that the health service is under, we are having to see appointments cancelled.

The NHS backlog for routine treatment grew from 6.4million to 6.6million in May, meaning one in eight people in England are now waiting for elective care, often in pain

NHS cancer data shows only six in 10 people started their first cancer treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral in July — the worst performance ever reported and well below the 85 per cent target

‘And people who are experiencing health services know that very often we’re not able to provide the level of service that we want to provide.

‘And what that reflects is unprecedented level of demand.

‘I speak to health leaders every day and they all say that they’ve never seen this level of demand – that’s not just in hospitals, that’s community services, mental health services, primary care.

‘We know that it can be difficult to see your GP but yet, GPs are seeing more people now than they saw before the Covid pandemic.’

The NHS is currently under pressure across a host of services, including GPs, A&Es, ambulances and dentistry.

Demand for GP appointments has increased while hundreds of practices have closed, with family doctors retiring earlier and more switching to part-time work.

Meanwhile, A&Es have become overrun, with patients unable to be given beds because of so-called ‘bed blockers’ who can’t be discharged because of staffing issues in the care sector.

And ambulances are being kept off the road because they are stuck in queues outside packed emergency departments.

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