Hospital waiting list rises to 7.6 million – as investigation launched into state of NHS

UK

The waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England has risen for a second consecutive month, latest figures show – as the new health secretary announced an investigation into the state of the NHS.

An estimated 7.6 million treatments were waiting to be carried out at the end of May, relating to 6.38 million patients.

This was up slightly from 7.57 million treatments and 6.33 million patients at the end of April, NHS England said.

The list hit a record high in September 2023 with 7.77 million treatments and 6.5 million patients, after which the figures began to fall – before showing an increase in both April and May this year.

Health Secretary Wes Streeting, who took on the role following Labour’s landslide general election win earlier this month, said an investigation into the performance of the NHS would be aimed at “diagnosing the problem” so the government can “write the prescription”.

He said it will be led by former health minister Lord Ara Darzi, who he has asked to “tell hard truths”.

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“It’s clear to anyone who works in or uses the NHS that it is broken,” Mr Streeting said, writing for The Sun.

“Unlike the last government, we are not looking for excuses. I am certainly not going to blame NHS staff, who bust a gut for their patients.

“This government is going to be honest about the challenges facing us, and serious about solving them.”

Mr Streeting added: “Honesty is the best policy, and this report will provide patients, staff and myself with a full and frank assessment of the state of the NHS, warts and all.”

The latest NHS figures also showed 4,597 patients in England had been waiting more than 18 months to start routine treatment at the end of May – down from 5,013 in April.

The previous government and NHS England had set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than 18 months by April 2023, excluding exceptionally complex cases or patients who choose to wait longer.

There were 55,955 patients who had been waiting more than 65 weeks to start treatment at the end of May – up from 50,397 in April.

The target to eliminate all waits of more than 65 weeks was switched to September 2024 – from March 2024.

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Meanwhile, the average response time in June for ambulances in England dealing with the most urgent incidents, defined as calls from people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, was eight minutes and 21 seconds.

This is up slightly from eight minutes and 16 seconds in May and is above the target standard response time of seven minutes.

However, the number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E departments in England from a decision to admit to actually being admitted stood at 38,106 in June, down from 42,555 in May.

The latest data and launch of a probe come as a new report from the Nuffield Trust thinktank revealed progress tackling waiting lists has “stagnated” and “long waits remain endemic in the NHS”.

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