Six million on waiting list as full scale of Covid backlog lays bare


Most of the six million people are stuck on hospital waiting lists as the scale of the NHS backlog due to the pandemic hits a new record.

The new total of 5,995,156 includes nearly 307,000 patients who have waited more than a year for non-emergency treatment and 18,585 people who have waited more than two years, NHS England figures showed on Thursday.

There were also record delays in A&E departments, with nearly 13,000 sick patients waiting more than 12 hours to be admitted to a ward – the highest number since records began in 2010.

Figures show that the number of people who waited more than 52 weeks to start treatment was nearly 6,000 less than the previous month, but 60 percent higher than 192,169 a year ago.

Only 65 percent of the patients are being seen within the target of 18 weeks. The waiting list figures are as of the end of November – before the Omicron wave saw a dramatic increase in infections and thousands of NHS workers became ill or self-isolated.

The average ambulance response for the most serious emergencies took nine minutes and 13 seconds in December, well above the seven-minute target, although the London Ambulance Service averaged seven minutes and nine seconds, with the best response in the country .

However for the second category of emergencies – which can include heart attack and stroke – crews took more than 52 minutes in London and 53 minutes nationwide. The target is 18 minutes.

NHS England said staff responded to 82,000 “category one” life-threatening emergencies during the month, a record number.

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, said: “Our healthcare first went into this wave of Covid infections with six million people on the waiting list.

“Thanks to a decade of Tory mismanagement, the NHS was unprepared for the pandemic and had no spare capacity when O’Micron hit.