Record numbers waiting to start hospital treatment after 'calamitous impact' of Covid

14 January 2021, 14:27 | Updated: 14 January 2021, 14:28

Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a fall last month
Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a fall last month. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

The record number of patients waiting for hospital treatment shows the "calamitous impact" of coronavirus on waiting times in England, a leading surgeon has said.

New figures published on Thursday show that a total of 4.46 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment in England at the end of November 2020, the highest number since records began.

This compares with 4.42 million in November 2019 and 4.45 million in October that year - the previous highest number in the data which goes back to August 2007.

The total number of people admitted for routine treatment in hospitals in England was down 27% in November compared with a year ago.

Some 222,810 patients were admitted for treatment during the month, down from 303,193 in November 2019.

The year-on-year decrease recorded in September and October was also 27%, while in August the drop was 43%.

Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said there was a 'huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown'.

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He added: "Today's figures show the calamitous impact of Covid-19 on wait times for operations.

"In November, a record number of patients were waiting for hospital treatment.

"For thousands of people in this country a corrective operation is the best way to relieve debilitating pain and get them back up on their feet, back to work and enjoying life again.

"Many of us were complaining about the pain of the lockdown restrictions in November. However, we should remember all those people waiting for an operation who had their physical pain to deal with, on top of the pain of lockdown.

"A huge, hidden waiting list is building up under lockdown.

"When we eventually emerge from this crisis, we will need sustained investment to treat all those who have been waiting patiently for treatment."

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A&E attendances at hospitals in England also continue to be below levels of a year ago, according to the latest figures from NHS England.

A total of 1.5 million attendances were recorded in December 2020, down 32% from 2.2 million in December 2019.

NHS England said the fall is "likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response" - suggesting that people are still staying away from A&E because of the pandemic.

The year-on-year drop in A&E attendances of 32% in December compares with falls of 31% in November, 26% in October, 20% in September and 19% in August.

Emergency admissions to A&E departments at hospitals in England also showed a fall last month, down 18% from 560,795 in December 2019 to 460,260 in December 2020.