There has been a 10% increase in the number of patients waiting to start planned hospital treatment, official figures have shown.
NHS England and NHS Improvement statistics on referral to treatment (RTT) waiting times for consultant-led elective care, published yesterday, showed that there were 4.23 million people waiting to start treatment at the end of March 2019.
This is a 10% increase on the same month last year, when 3.84 million patients were waiting for treatment.
The figures show that CCGs and providers have not met the ambition set by NHS England for RTT patients in its Refreshing NHS Plans for 2018/19 .
The plans stipulated that the number of RTT patients should be ‘no higher in March 2019 than in March 2018’. If possible, the planning guidance said, the number should have been reduced.
Responding to the, data Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) president Professor Derek Alderson said:
‘With 4.23 million people on the waiting list in March 2019, it is clear hospitals have missed the NHS planning guidance target by some way.
‘It further emphasises the struggle NHS hospitals have faced in tackling the backlog that built up in the first few months of last year.’
NHS statistics also showed that only 86.7% of patients were seen within the 18-week target. This falls short of the 92% target set by the Government – which according to the RCS hasn’t been met since February 2016.
As of March 2019, there were 562, 981 patients waiting over 18 weeks to start treatment, NHS data showed. This is a 15% increase on last year’s figure of 491,102.
However, RTT figures show that there has been an improvement in the number of patients waiting over a year for treatment.
Commissioners and providers have exceeded the target stated in the Refreshing NHS Plans document to halve the number of RTT patients waiting over a year.
This number dropped from 2,755 patients in March 2018 to 1,154 in March 2019.
Professor Alderson said: ‘While it is good news that the number of patients waiting over a year to start treatment has more than halved over the last year, there are still far too many waiting longer than the Government’s 18-week target.’
Failure to comply with this target means both commissioners and providers could be fined £2,500 each for each patient, in accordance with the 2019/20 NHS Standard contract.
The RCS is calling for a plan to help hospital chiefs reduce long RTT waiting lists.