11 Dec 2020

NHS England waiting list figures show T&O patients are worst affected

The latest Trauma and Orthopaedic data for England, published 10th December, shows trauma and orthopaedic surgery is the worst affected specialty with 35,000 people who have waited more than a year and 244,536 who have waited more than 18 weeks. More than for any other specialty. The data also showed:

  • In total, between April and September 212,000 (73%) fewer operations occurred this year than in the same period last year.
  • In October 2020 in England, the number of patients admitted was 63% of normal (compared to October 2019). This was the lowest percentage of any surgical specialty.
  • This has contributed to huge rises in the number of people on the waiting list for extended periods. Patients waiting 18+ weeks at the end of October rose from 100,000 at the start of 2020 to 244,536. The number of patients waiting over a year rose from 436 in January and to 34,978 in October.

Bob Handley, BOA President, comments, “The NHS England waiting list figures, announced yesterday, as expected show a deteriorating situation overall, with  elective orthopaedic surgery being the worst affected. In our specialty, 35,000 people have waited more than a year and 244,536 more than 18 weeks – in both cases this is more than for any other named specialty.

“We are hearing countless distressing stories of patients awaiting surgery, such as hip and knee replacement, experiencing relentless pain. Orthopaedic patients are now marooned on the waiting list with a severe impacted of quality of life and the prospect that surgery to relieve their pain and restore their mobility getting further from their reach. They will have the sympathy of anyone who has themselves laid awake at night in pain.”

“But sympathy is not enough, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS struggled to keep up with the demands of elective work especially in the winter months. In this time of conflicting and competing demands we keep putting these patients at the end of an ever lengthening queue. Money helps, but it is not worth just pouring into the same unsuitable structure. We need to support the ways of working which allow the highly effective elective procedures to continue protected as much as is possible from fluctuations in emergencies. The COVID crisis has shone a light on the weakness’s we knew were already there; the ‘Winter Pressures’ we should learn and change. We need to see that elective surgery is protected from being shut down on a regular basis due to capacity issues in other areas of the NHS.

“We hope patients and the public will join us and help motivate their politicians to argue for priority to the relief of suffering for these tens of thousands of patients. Political recognition of the problem will allow support solutions to be found to regain the lost ground. The relief of pain is a fundamental component of a functioning society, we should not stand by and watch that function of our society deteriorate.”

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