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  • Health disparities: waiting for planned care (Healthwatch, 9 June 2022)

    Article information
    • UK
    • Reports and articles
    • Pre-existing
    • Original author
    • No
    • Healthwatch
    • 09/06/22
    • Everyone


    The current hospital backlog has had a huge impact on many patients waiting for treatment. But if you are a woman, on a low income or from an ethnic minority background, you are more likely to have a worse experience of waiting for care.

    Research from Healthwatch has highlighted people were unhappy with the communications they received and the lack of support the NHS gave them to help with things like pain relief or accessing physiotherapy. These concerns were not experienced equally by all, and findings were particularly stark among disabled people, those with long term health conditions, and those on lower incomes.   

    A new poll of 1,000 adults on NHS waiting lists shows that a poorer experience of waiting can be linked to factors such as wealth, disability, level of education, gender or ethnicity.


    Impact on people from poorer households  

    This group has been hit hardest when it comes to how long they wait for treatment and the impact this has on their mental health and wellbeing and ability to work:        

    • Over half (54%) of respondents from lower income householders said they were either still waiting for NHS treatment or had to wait over four months before getting hospital treatment. This compares to 34% of people from higher income households. 
    • Fewer people on lower incomes (44%) reported being given a clear point of contact with the NHS. This compares to 55% of people from higher income households.     
    • Nearly twice as many people from poorer households (52%) said long waits affected their mental health when compared to responses from more affluent households (28%).   
    • And 39% of people from lower income households said long waits affected their ability to work, compared to 29% from richer households.   

    Impact on ethnic minorities  

    The poll suggests there are ethnic differences when it comes to how easy people find to get hospital treatment. And when we combine them with factors, such as wealth and education, the disparities are far starker.  

    • Over half of ethnic minority respondents (57%) faced a delay to or cancellation of hospital treatment compared to 42% of white British respondents.  
    • Ethnic minority respondents from lower income households were hit hardest by having to wait longer for care. These individuals were almost twice as likely to report having faced a delay to or a cancellation of their treatment compared to white British respondents with higher wealth (63% vs 38%).
    • Just half of the respondents (53%) from ethnic minority backgrounds with lower education felt well-informed about their treatment. This compared to 67% of white British people with higher education. 

    Impact on disabled people  

    The poll suggests that disabled people have had a worse experience of waiting for treatment than those who identified as non-disabled. Out of 20% of respondents who identified themselves as disabled, two-thirds (66%) waited more than four months for treatment, compared to 44% of those who are identified as non-disabled.   

    Just over half of disabled respondents felt communications from the NHS about their care or treatment were clear and easy to understand compared to non-disabled respondents (57% vs 70%).  

    Long waits also affect disabled people more than non-disabled people:  

    • Ability to work (55% vs 29%).  
    • Ability to carry out household tasks (51% vs 33%).
    • Ability to socialise (49% vs 31%).  
    • Physical fitness (60% vs 40%).

    Impact on women  

    • Women are 28% more likely to wait over four months for NHS treatment than men (54% vs 42%).  
    • More women are also likely to experience adverse impacts of long waits compared to men. Most strikingly, women are 50% more likely to say that long waits impacted their ability to socialise than men (41% vs 28%).  
    • 38% of respondents who identified as female said that waiting for treatment impacted on their ability to work, compared to male respondents (29%).  
    Health disparities: waiting for planned care (Healthwatch, 9 June 2022) https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/sites/healthwatch.co.uk/files/Health%20Disparities_waiting%20for%20planned%20care.pdf
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