Waiting times to diagnosis and decision rose by more than a week in December, reaching 38.6 weeks at month end. This matters because many urgent conditions are only detected when the patient reaches diagnosis, including nearly a quarter of all cancers, and such very long waits put those patients at risk.
Looking at the whole referral-to-treatment waiting list, which includes patients who have a diagnosis and decision, waiting times remained roughly steady at 43.4 weeks, compared with the standard of 18 weeks that is still required by legislation. Waiting times are a function of both the size and shape of the waiting list, and in December the former got worse and the latter improved.
There were 6,067,326 patients on the waiting list as December ended, which is the first time the official figures have topped six million. As many as 310,813 of them had waited over a year (strictly, 52 weeks), and 20,065 over two years (104 weeks). The NHS’s backlog recovery plan has committed that “By July 2022, no one will wait longer than two years for an elective treatment”.
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Source: HSJ, 10 February 2022