Tens of thousands of patients have been forced to wait for more than a year to start hospital treatment in England, according to new figures.
Almost 163,000 patients—on a waiting list of 4.4 million—had to wait for more than 12 months in October.
The NHS England figures show the number of people stuck on a waiting list for over a year is 100 times higher than before the pandemic. In February around 1,600 people were waiting.
The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) warned that patients are left in pain unable to carry on with “day-to-day life”. RCS president Professor Neil Mortensen said, "Yet again, these waiting time figures drive home the devastating impact Covid has had on wider NHS service.
“Though we were able to recover some ground over the summer, October’s figures show that as the second wave of the pandemic began to build, so too did the pressures on planned surgery.”
Mortensen added that the waiting times were a “national crisis”, which could take two or three years to deal with.
The number of people waiting for more than a year is at its highest since 2008.
The waiting list crisis is the result of the Tories’ disastrous handling of the pandemic—and underlying weakness of the NHS after a decade of cuts and privatisation.
The number of patients admitted for treatment, including surgery, decreased as a battered NHS tried to cope with the rise in coronavirus cases from March.
The Tory government drove people back to work and school before it was safe.
It didn’t use the time bought by the first lockdown to build a functioning test and trace system. Instead, it handed millions of pounds to Tory-linked outsourcer Serco instead of investing in public health.
Now patients with long-term conditions are paying for it.
The data suggests the number of patients admitted for planned treatment has been increasing to pre-pandemic levels.
Some 232,487 patients were admitted in October, the highest figure since February when some 285,819 were admitted.
But the second wave of coronavirus could put that in jeopardy.
The new waiting list figures are at a 17 percent increase on the almost 140,000 people who were in the same position in September.
Sarah Scobie of the Nuffield Trust charity said, “These figures show the enormous impact that the pandemic is having on non-Covid-19 care. Between the two waves of the pandemic, the NHS was not able to catch up with the demand for scheduled care.
“This build-up will take time to work through but sadly could be just the tip of the iceberg, with those people not coming into the system storing up greater care needs in the future.”
The waiting times' crisis once again shows the need to bring the NHS back into full public ownership, and for an effective strategy against Covid-19.