NHS England has published its latest monthly performance figures which show the NHS has failed to meet its target to stabilise waiting lists for elective treatment.
The figures show that the number of referral to treatment (RTT) patients waiting to start treatment at the end of March 2019 was 4.2 million, compared with the 3.8 million in March 2018.
The last time the 18 week RTT 92% target was met was in February 2016.
In response to the figures, David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) said: ‘Last year the NHS made a clear commitment to keep waiting lists for routine care stable and to halve the number of people waiting over 52 weeks for treatment – fully funded through allocations made in the Chancellor’s 2017 Budget.
‘While it’s welcome that the number of people waiting over 52 weeks has successfully been halved, today’s figures show the NHS has fallen far short of stabilising the waiting list. Over 380,000 more people are now on the official waiting list. That’s a rise of 10% to over 4.2m people waiting. Even when taking into account those Trusts that have resumed reporting their waiting figures over the past year, we still see over 240,000 additional people waiting for much needed treatment – equivalent to the population of Brighton.’
Hare went onto say that these numbers paint a troubling picture about the ability of patients to access timely NHS care, particularly as these targets fall far short of the clear rights contained in the NHS Constitution for patients to be treated within 18 weeks for vital procedures such as hip operations and cataracts, a target which now hasn’t been met for over three years.
Commenting on the performance figures, Nick Ville, director of policy at the NHS Confederation said: ‘These figures once again reveal the relentless pressure that NHS staff are being placed under. Just when we hoped the pressure from winter would ease, staff continue to be overloaded with major increases in A&E attendances compared to last year. This shows that winter pressures are experienced all year round and need to be addressed.’