The backlog of people in England waiting more than two years for routine operations has fallen from 22,500 people to below 200, figures from NHS England suggest.
Published today (9 August), the data suggest that just 168 people are waiting longer than 24 months, excluding more complex cases and people who did not want to travel.
And around 51,000 people who would have breached two years by the end of July have also been treated, NHS England said.
Eliminating waits this long by the end of July was the first milestone in the NHS’ elective recovery plan, published in February.
However, a record 6.6 million people are still waiting for elective treatment.
Commenting on the figures, Danny Mortimer, NHS Confederation deputy chief executive, said NHS teams have been working ‘exceptionally hard’ to reduce the longest waits, despite ‘unprecedented pressures’ from growing demand.
He said: ‘As we commend those NHS services dealing with elective waiting lists we must also acknowledge the vital work that continues to take place in primary and community care and in mental health and ambulance services to provide care to people as they wait.
‘It’s critical these settings are given commensurate attention and investment from government to ensure they are resourced to meet ever-growing levels of need.’
Mr Mortimer added that the next prime minister ‘must act to tackle the challenges facing the NHS and prioritise providing capital investment, a funded workforce plan and a proper support package for social care and its workforce’.
And NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: ‘The next phase will focus on patients waiting longer than 18 months, building on the fantastic work already done, and while it is a significant challenge our remarkable staff have shown that when we are given the tools and resources we need, the NHS delivers for our patients.’
The elective recovery plan also set out targets to:
- Eliminate waits of over one year by March 2025
- Reduce diagnostic waiting times, with the aim of least 95% of patients receiving tests within six weeks by March 2025
- Deliver the ‘cancer faster diagnosis standard’, with at least 75% of urgent cancer referrals receiving a diagnosis within 28 days by March 2024 and return the 62-day backlog to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023
- Better ‘monitor and improve’ both waiting times and patients’ experience of waiting for first outpatient appointments over the next three years.