Longer waiting times for surgery may be putting patients’ welfare at risk, a leading medical organisation has warned.
More than 150,000 NHS patients in England had been waiting more than six months for surgery in September, new figures show – up 40% on the previous year.
This could have a “serious impact” on a patient’s quality of life and the effectiveness of their eventual surgery, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) said.
In September, a total of 151,710 people had been waiting for longer than six months for surgery, up from 108,463 in 2016, NHS England statistics show.
The RCS is concerned a lack of money may lead to half-a-year waiting times for non-urgent surgery becoming the norm, its president said.
Professor Derek Alderson said: “What is most concerning is this rise comes before pressures on the NHS are expected to increase this winter.
“With bed capacity expected to be at a premium due to continuing issues with social care, some patients needing non-urgent surgery this winter simply will not enter an operating theatre until the spring.
“Waiting several months for treatment could have a serious impact on a patient’s quality of life and the effectiveness of their eventual surgery.”
The statistics also show 21,033 patients were waiting nine months or longer for surgery in September 2017 compared with 13,272 in 2016.
Prof Alderson added: “With the 18-week waiting time target already de-prioritised, and (NHS England chief executive) Simon Stevens saying that without an increase in funding waiting time targets may have to be abolished, we are concerned that before long waiting six months for non-urgent surgery may begin to become the norm.
“Funding is simply not keeping up with patient demand, and although there is scope for the NHS to be more efficient, efficiency savings alone will not ensure patients are treated in the timely and safe manner that is expected of the NHS.”