The number of patients on the NHS waiting list could double

ARTIST Pamela Leonard has been waiting for a hip replacement for over 5 years.

Pamela is 65 years old, living with constant pain and almost only bedridden. She can only stand for 10 minutes at a time and dislocates her hip several times a day.

The number of patients on the NHS waiting list could double - and some may have to wait until 2028 for treatment, experts reveal


The number of patients on the NHS waiting list could double – and some may have to wait until 2028 for treatment, experts revealCredit: Alamy
Artist Pamela Leonard has been waiting for a replacement hip for more than 5 years


Artist Pamela Leonard has been waiting for a replacement hip for more than 5 yearsCredit: © Andrew Price / View Finder Pi

The painkillers she takes cause disorientation and confusion, and there is a risk of opioid dependence.

Her doctor, where Pamela lives in Holyhead, Anglesey, told her that the only way she could perfect her hip right now was if she fell and broke it.

Pamela’s son, Russell, is a huge supporter of the NHS but became so upset over seeing his mother’s “ongoing nightmare” that he set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds. contributed the £15,000 that Pamela needed to pay for her private operation.

Pamela’s case is an extreme one – fortunately. But while working on a new program for Radio 4, I came across many other heartbreaking cases of people stuck, suffering, on the internet. waiting list.

There is a 34-year-old family man in need of heart surgery who has been waiting three years for surgery. He lives in daily fear of a deadly heart attack.

Then there was a retired nurse in Norfolk who faced a four-year wait for a knee replacement.

The stories continue. No doubt you will hear your own. A story can tell about your own predicament.

Because the sheer number of people on the waiting list is staggering. Now they have record rates.

Officially, six million people are waiting in the UK and another 1.2 million in the rest of the UK. That number makes up more than a tenth of the population.

The backlog is the worst in Northern Ireland, where one in four people are waiting.

All those on the waiting list are currently caught up in the battle between No10 and the Chancellor.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce yesterday how the NHS will handle the backlog.

But the publication of the NHS Electoral Care Recovery Plan has been postponed after ministers failed to sign off on the draft text.

Insiders said the Treasury refused to approve until it had assurances about the specific “tough targets” it was asking for in return for funding.

The government says it will spend £8 billion over the next three years to clear the backlog. It is not unreasonable that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants that money to be spent as efficiently as possible.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Sajid Javid blamed Omicron for the delay.

And there was another shock. The waiting list could double in the near future, to 13 million.

Millions of people were scared to go to their doctor during Covid.


We know, for example, that there were 240,000 “missing” urgent GP referrals on suspicion of cancer.

These people are simply missing. Some may have died.

When they appear in the system, no one knows what form they will take.

Meanwhile, the British Heart Foundation reported that there were 6,000 more deaths from heart disease between March 2020 and January 2021 in the UK than what would be expected in normal times.

So, as we all play another waiting game, while these controversies are settled, let’s see what might happen.

We know some money will be spent on improving diagnostic services, on making hospitals more efficient with better IT, on new surgery centers and more beds. There will also be innovation.

In Croydon, South London, for example, the local hospital solved its backlog by setting up a new elective care centre.

They did it simply by walling off part of the old hospital – something that prevented staff carrying out usual activities from entering the emergency room.

There are also plans to release patients who have already received early treatment to a “virtual ward” where possible.

This means patients are sent home with monitoring equipment, such as supercharged Fitbits, that detect heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation.

Some patients will then be able to do the final part of their recovery at home.

And routine post-treatment follow-up appointments will in some cases become on-demand rather than automatic.

There will also be a new website, My Planned Care, to allow patients to find out how long they have to wait and help prevent their condition from going downhill.

There will be more strategies on these.

But without seeing the overall plan, there’s no way to see if it’s working or to give patients a better idea of ​​what they can expect.

The government has said it wants to set a target for the NHS to do 30% more operations to clear the backlog.

Some experts doubt this can be achieved.

A senior medical source I spoke to said it could take up to 2028 to clear the backlog across the UK. Others suggest three or four years.

That’s no consolation for millions like Pamela Leonard, who is currently facing her sixth year on a waiting list.

  • Natasha is The Economist’s Health Policy Editor. The backlog starts at 4pm tomorrow on Radio 4 and on BBC Sounds.
Natasha Loder is The Economist's Health Policy Editor


Natasha Loder is The Economist’s Health Policy Editor The number of patients on the NHS waiting list could double


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