The scale of the challenge

The waiting stats published today are jaw dropping. DHC Director, Graham Kendall, reviews the figures and estimates that the true waiting list is now around 6.4 million people.

The data, covering the period up to the end of May, show:

  • admissions are down to 18% of last year’s levels (296,000 in May 2019 compared to 56,000 in May 2020)
  • non-admitted activity (mainly outpatients) is down to 44% of the rate we experienced last year (1.1 million down to 506,000)
  • 37% of the total number of people on the official waiting list have already waited longer than 18 weeks (the target is a maximum of 8%)
  • one in five have been waiting for longer than 26 weeks

Despite this grim news, the total number of people waiting has fallen to 3.8 million. As is clear from the numbers above, this isn’t due to a surge in activity. It is entirely down to fewer people joining the waiting list.

1.1 million fewer people joined the waiting list in May 2020 compared to this time last year. That’s just the number from May, but there were drops in April and March as well. These people are likely to have conditions that still need care. It’s just they either haven’t seen a GP or been referred. Taken together, this means that by the end of May, there were a total of around 2.5 million people with conditions that would normally lead to a referral but who are yet to join the official waiting list.

Add that hidden waiting list to the official number of people waiting and we are looking at around 6.4 million people waiting by the end of May. In turn, this means we are well on the way to 10 million people waiting by the end of the year.

It will take years to clear this backlog so we need to make sure we use every digital tool possible. The case for transforming care has never been more pressing.