NHS wait times in Somerset

A review of the performance of the NHS was published by the National Audit Office today. It shows Somerset to have the 16th worst performance in England & Wales for elective surgery. Remember the target for elective care is legally binding. It states that 92% of patients on the waiting list should start their treatment within 18 weeks of being referred to a consultant.

Somerset is nowhere near this. 35% of patients had to wait more than 18 weeks, that was 17,235 patients. However of those 5% had to wait more than a year for their procedures, a total of 2,559 patients.

Just to compare with other areas of the country, Birmingham and Solihull had the worst performance. 51% of patients there were waiting more than 18 weeks. But even the best, South West London still had 21% of patients waiting over 18 weeks. Which is also a lot worse than the 92% target.

The fact that there are long waiting times will not be a surprise. The impact of COVID 19 on our NHS has been obvious for all to see. What the NAO report highlights, is that some areas of the country have done rather better than others. Both in terms of managing the pandemic and managing the waiting lists building up because of it.

That said, the NAO report notes that waiting times and backlogs tend to grow when there is a mismatch between
demand for healthcare and the activity that hospitals can perform. This mismatch was already apparent in the NHS before the pandemic.

And of course many patients simply vanished. The NAO note that “Millions of people have avoided seeking, or been unable to obtain, healthcare during the pandemic. We estimate that there were between 240,000 and 740,000 ‘missing’ urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer during the period of the pandemic up to September 2021. In addition, there were between 7.6 million and 9.1 million ‘missing’ referrals for elective care over the same period.”

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