By: 15 October 2021
Surgeons urge the NHS to embrace surgical hubs to tackle record waiting list

Commenting on waiting time statistics published recently which report a record waiting list, the Royal College of Surgeons of England has warned that extra staff and surgical hubs will be needed to help clear the waiting list.

Mr Tim Mitchell, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, welcomed last month’s announcement of £12bn a year, over the next three years, to be invested in health and social care.  He said the NHS performance data shows the funding for elective treatments is ‘sorely needed.’

NHS performance data published recently reveals there were 5.61 million people on the NHS waiting list in July 2021, the highest number since records began. For the first time more than 100,000 (102,304) are waiting over 18 months for hospital treatment.

The longest waits reported are the 7,980 patients waiting more than two years for treatment. This represents a 39% increase on the previous month (5,727 patients were waiting more than two years for treatment in June 2021). The longest waits were for trauma and orthopaedic treatment such as hip and knee replacements (1,732), followed by General Surgery such as gallbladder removals and hernia operations (982), followed by Ear Nose and Throat treatment (842).

Despite the ongoing pressures of COVID (the number of people in hospital in England with COVID stands at over 6,000, and despite ongoing staff shortages due to staff being told to isolate), the NHS treated millions of patients in the early summer months.  2.6 million patients started consultant-led treatment during June and July.

Mr Mitchell said: “Today’s waiting times figures show the new funding for planned surgery is sorely needed. Behind these eye-watering statistics are patients waiting in pain for hip and knee replacements and for heart, brain and other operations.  Without surgery, many would be left unable to work or carry out everyday activities, their quality of life greatly diminished.

“We realise that reducing this enormous backlog will require commitment and a great deal of hard work from frontline NHS staff. However, as this week’s plan from the government acknowledges, we also need extra capacity in the NHS, through the creation of new surgical hubs. These separate planned surgery from emergency care and so are our best defence in keeping surgery going through further outbreaks of COVID, or a severe bout of winter flu.

“The NHS will also need doctors, nurses and surgeons to staff these hubs, which requires long term investment in our work force.  Furthermore, our NHS and social care systems are strongly interconnected. We cannot provide high quality care in the NHS without a properly resourced and functioning social care sector.”