The British Orthopaedic Association (BOA) is very concerned about increasing waiting times for patients with orthopaedic conditions across England. We recently prepared some data on the numbers (rather than percentages) of people who are waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment, and this has deteriorated markedly. Each of these people is an individual experiencing pain, limited mobility or other effects on their day to day functions. We consider this unacceptable and call on the NHS to put the necessary resources in place to ensure those needing orthopaedic surgery such as hip and knee replacements are not continuing to suffer needlessly.
The BOA is alarmed and dismayed to see the gradual backwards transition to the long waiting lists of the past for what the NHS are wrongly interpreting as ‘optional’ surgical procedures. Elective surgery is not optional surgery. Many patients suffering with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions are in significant pain, which severely affects their quality of life and their ability to perform the simple activities of daily living. Leaving patients waiting in pain for treatment longer than is clinically necessary is not acceptable. Arthritis is common and often dismissed, but it is life changing, threatening patients’ independence, their ability to earn a living and care for their loved ones.
We have particularly highlighted the deterioration in waiting times that has occurred during winter 2017/18, when ‘winter pressures’ resulted in the widespread cancellation of elective surgery as beds were filled to capacity with acutely ill patients. We are concerned that an efficient and timely elective orthopaedic service is not possible where such measures are taken for prolonged periods.