The number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has risen to a new record high of 6.1 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of December 2021.

The number of people who were waiting to start treatment at the end of December 2021 is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

The number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at 310,813 in December 2021, up from 306,996 in the previous month and 39% higher than the number in December 2020.

A total of 20,065 people were waiting more than two years to start routine hospital treatment at the end of December 2021.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation and Consultant Cardiologist, said: “Behind these record numbers are hundreds of thousands of real people at higher risk of avoidable heart attacks, disabling heart failure, or even premature death as they face dangerous delays for potentially live saving heart care. They can’t wait any longer to hear how and when this care will be delivered.

“This week’s plan to tackle the backlog of elective care didn’t tell us what will happen to the vast and ever-increasing number of heart patients waiting for time-critical cardiac care. We must urgently see a specific plan for cardiovascular care recovery that commits to addressing the shortage of heart disease doctors, nurses and physiologists.”

Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:

‘Today’s performance data shows there has been no let up for staff or patients, with the NHS facing historic levels of pressure.

‘Even before the Omicron variant emerged, waiting lists were hitting new records but the demands on services combined with a spike in staff sickness absences has given the NHS an even bigger mountain to climb. The pressures on hospital capacity are reflected in the strains on A&E departments, with record numbers of trolley waits in January.

‘The announcement of yesterday’s long anticipated elective recovery plan is welcome but the challenges facing the NHS cannot be understated – there are now 6.07 million on the waiting list with over 310,000 patients waiting longer than a year.

‘While there are some welcome initiatives set out in this week’s integration white paper and the recovery plan, longstanding staff shortages will continue to constrain progress. If a plan to solve the workforce crisis doesn’t emerge soon then the NHS’s ambition to bring down waiting lists and fully recover after the pandemic will continue to be undermined.’


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