BOA statement on NHS App showing average waiting times for surgery

NHS England has today (30th January 2024) announced that alongside people being able to use the NHS App to view their prescriptions for the first time, patients waiting for an elective hospital treatment will also be able to see the average waiting time for their procedure at their local trust.

Using the NHS App to show patients approximate waiting times for their much-needed surgery is to be welcomed if it’s largely accurate. It is important for patients to be kept informed whilst waiting for treatment, but information based on a mean average risks giving patients an unrealistic expectation of how long they may be waiting.

Polling conducted by YouGov and Versus Arthritis in 2022, showed that nearly 40% of people with osteoarthritis would prefer to see maximum waiting times for treatment rather than average waiting times.

In addition, according to a Government report on health inequalities, in England, 42% of working-age adults are unable to understand and make use of everyday health information, rising to 61% when numeracy skills are also required for comprehension.

Simon Hodkinson, BOA President said,

"Looking at the published stats from NHS trusts, as an example, the mean average waiting times for patients could be around 22 weeks whereas the 92nd percentile figures is 63 weeks, showing just how far apart these two metrics are. It is unacceptable that patients may be given such false hope that they will be no longer in pain, able to resume work and caring responsibilities and regain their independence 40 weeks earlier than the likely reality.

As the NHS makes increasing use of digital technologies, patients must have faith in the information they are given and we can see no reason why the NHS should not use the 92nd percentile waiting times figure rather than mean average."