This week’s NHS performance figures show no change to the significant pressures facing the NHS and our medical workforce, with waiting lists in England at another record high of 7.8 million in September, and the busiest October on record for A&E departments.
RCP President Dr Sarah Clarke commented:
“We mustn’t forget the people behind these waiting list numbers. New data from NHS England suggests there are 6.5 million individual patients waiting for treatment. While this new figure should be used with caution, it reminds us of the scale of the impact of long waiting lists. Other analysis this week show that those impacts are not felt equally either, with those in the most deprived parts of England 2.1 times more likely to wait over a year for elective treatment compared to those in the least deprived. We already know that there is a gap of almost two decades in the healthy life expectancy of the most and least deprived – one of the many reasons we continue to call for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities.
“It is welcome that the number of people waiting longer than one and two years has decreased, but with the median wait for treatment at its highest since August 2020, people are still waiting too long to get the care they need.
“While the focus will be on winter, the reality is that sadly we do not have adequate capacity in health and social care all year round. As demand increases over winter, we will see signs of further deterioration. We already hear daily of the pressure NHS staff are facing and their disappointment at not being able to provide the quality of care their patients deserve. It is imperative that staff feel supported and that the service is resourced appropriately to weather this difficult period and beyond.”
Sufficient diagnostic capacity is vital to move people off waiting lists and through the clinical pathway from clinical assessment to diagnosis and treatment. While government has said that it will meet its commitment to deliver 160 new community diagnostic centres (CDCs) a year early, by March 2024, only 6.5% of the 2.19 million diagnostic tests carried out in September took place in in a CDC. More must be done to strengthen diagnostic capacity across the whole system."