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All you need to know about the patients waiting years for care

Medical staff transfer a patient through a corridor at The Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in East Lancashire (PA)
Medical staff transfer a patient through a corridor at The Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital in East Lancashire (PA)

Dozens of patients have been waiting for more than three years for NHS hospital care.

Here are your questions answered about the NHS’s longest waiters.

– How many people are currently waiting for more than two years?

The latest official figures from NHS England show that a total of 23,778 people in England were waiting more than two years to start routine hospital treatment at the end of January.

HEALTH NHS
PA Graphics

Once a patient has been waiting for more than two years, they are classed as waiting for “two years or over”, with no further detail provided on how long they have been waiting.

To find out how much longer patients had been waiting over the two year mark, the PA news agency sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 125 non-specialist acute hospital trusts in England to ask how many patients had been waiting for three years, four years, and then the longest period a patient had been waiting for an appointment.

– What has been found?

Data from 69 hospital trusts found that more than 91 patients have been waiting for at least three years for pre-planned hospital care after being referred by their GP while at least eight have been waiting for at least four years.

HEALTH NHS
PA Graphics

– But why isn’t this data already published?

One could argue that the NHS did not need to divulge further information on those waiting for more than two years in the past because it previously affected so few patients, but following PA’s investigation it is now facing calls to routinely publish this data to shine a light on the proportion of patients waiting the longest.

– What are patients saying?

It is likely that many of the patients waiting for long periods are in pain or discomfort.

Jo Goulding told PA her long wait had impacted every aspect of her life (PA)
Jo Goulding told PA her long wait had impacted every aspect of her life (Handout/PA)

One patient described how she has been in “agony” while waiting for care for years.

Jo Goulding told PA: “I’m just one of tens of thousands of people who have been waiting a long time, you feel like you’re forgotten and nobody’s interested.”

– What is the NHS doing to clear the backlog?

The health service said staff are working “flat out” to deliver as much pre-planned care as possible in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In February, the health service published its “elective recovery plan” which set out how it intends to tackle the backlog, including a pledge to ensure any patient waiting more than two years is treated by July this year.