English waiting times improve in April

by Rob Findlay

In April, as anticipated, referral-to-treatment waiting times came down in England:

  • 90 per cent of patients still waiting were below 17.4 weeks (down from 18.5 weeks in March), so the underlying long-wait pressure was down.
  • Only 9.5% of patients still waiting were over 18 weeks: the best since July 2010.
  • 90 per cent of admitted patients had waited less than 17.9 weeks (down from 18.3 weeks in March): the first time the (not very helpful) headline 18-week target has been met since January 2011.
  • The number of very-long waiters, still waiting after 52 weeks or more, was 13,435 (down from 14,355 in March).
  • All surgical specialties held steady or improved, on both the still-waiting and admitted 90th centile waiting times, with the exception of Cardiothoracic Surgery which has been worsening since December 2010.

There was one piece of bad news, though. The total size of the waiting list rose to 2,474,210 – the highest since November 2010. Compared with March, the April list was nearly 20,000 bigger, and we don’t have to look very hard for an explanation because admissions were 75,000 lower, and non-admission treatments were 200,000 lower than in March.

Why the drop in treatments? This is a seasonal thing that has happened every year since 2007 (with the exception of 2008 when the 18 week target was being met). It is too early to say whether this has anything to do with the financial squeeze.

In the following chart, both lines show 90th centile referral-to-treatment (RTT) waiting times (i.e. 10 per cent of patients waited longer than the time shown by the line). The solid line shows how long admitted patients waited (this is now back below 18 weeks), and the dotted line shows waiting times for those patients who are still waiting (this peaked during the winter and is now coming down).

England RTT waiting time trends
England RTT waiting time trends

For the full details, our waiting time fact-checker is here:

RTT waiting times fact checker – April 2011

Maps of waiting time pressures

Here is a collection of interactive maps, one for each main specialty, showing the underlying waiting time pressures around England. You can click any Trust’s pin to get more detail in a balloon. You can also click the Trust’s name in the balloon for a more comprehensive analysis with benchmarking and time trends.

General Surgery
Oral Surgery
Plastic Surgery
Cardiothoracic Surgery
Total of all specialties


This post first appeared in HSJ blogs
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