COVID-19 has 'calamitous impact' on hospital wait times

Lister Hospital

Lister Hospital, which is run by the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust - Credit: Danny Loo

The Royal College of Surgeons of England says a "huge, hidden waitlist" is building across the nation, as coronavirus continues to have a growing impact on the rolling out of non-essential healthcare services. 

Across England, 192,200 people had to wait over a year for treatment, a colossal jump compared to 1,400 in November 2019. This is the highest the figure has been since April 2008.

As of November 2020, 1,111 people under the care of West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust (WHHT) had to wait over 52 weeks. WHHT covers Hemel Hempstead, St Albans City and Watford General hospitals.

A further 987 faced the same wait times at hospitals served by East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, which include Lister and the New QEII, as well as Hertford County Hospital and Mount Vernon Cancer Centre.

NHS rules state that patients referred for non-urgent consultant-led elective care should start treatment within 18 weeks.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the RCS, said the figures show the “calamitous impact” of COVID-19 on operation waiting times.

“For thousands of people in this country a corrective operation is the best way to relieve debilitating pain and get them back up on their feet, back to work and enjoying life again,” he said.

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“Many of us were complaining about the pain of the lockdown restrictions in November. However, we should remember all those people waiting for an operation who had their physical pain to deal with, on top of the pain of lockdown.”

“A huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown. When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment to treat all those who have been waiting patiently for treatment.”

Across England, 4.46 million people were to start hospital treatment at the end of November – the highest number since records began.