Waiting lists for treatment in 2019 were at record levels, with the proportion of patients waiting less than 18 weeks for treatment at its lowest level in a decade.
Cancer waiting times were the worst on record, with 73% of trusts not meeting the 62-day cancer target. Waiting for diagnostic tests was at the highest level since 2008: 4.2% of patients were waiting over six weeks against a target of less than 1%.
On 17 March 2020, NHS England and NHS Improvement asked trusts to postpone all non-urgent elective operations to free up as much inpatient and critical care capacity as possible. At this point, there were 4.43 million people on waiting lists for consultant-led elective treatment.
It is imperative that we open a national debate on what the NHS can deliver in a resource-constrained environment. To translate into action, this must involve patients, clinicians, system and regional leaders, the public and politicians. Such a debate is long overdue: current methods for prioritising elective care, such as referral to treatment or the 62-day cancer standard, are no longer fit for purpose.
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Source: HSJ, 14 July 2020