Latest on 18 week waits: better in December

by Rob Findlay

The December 2011 RTT waiting times figures are out, and it’s good news again. Looking at the waiting list year-on-year, the total number waiting is down 1.1 per cent, over-18-week waiters are down 24 per cent, and over-52-week waiters are down 37 per cent.

Since the General Election all those indicators are also improved, except for over-18-week waiters which are slightly higher by a mere 94 patients (0.04 per cent).

The caveats? Referral restrictions mean that some patients are being barred or delayed from showing up on the waiting list, and so these figures may understate the backlog. Also two Trusts did not submit data; both Imperial and the RJAH are known to have difficulties with their waiting lists, so quite a lot of long-waiters may be concealed there.

But on the strength of the figures, if Ed Miliband wanted to tackle David Cameron over waiting times again, what on earth could he say? He could complain that the number of inpatients who waited over 18 weeks is up 13 per cent year-on-year, or 9 per cent since the Election, but (as I explained recently on Radio 4’s PM; here at 20m30s) that would be perverse. It might even backfire, if David Cameron is briefed correctly by the Department of Health:

Fantasy Prime Minister’s Questions

Ed Miliband: Is it not a disgrace that, yet again, this Government is keeping patients waiting longer? The number of inpatients who waited over 18 weeks: up 13 per cent year-on-year. Outpatients who waited over 18 weeks: up 19 per cent year-on-year. When is he going to admit that he’s lost control of waiting times?

David Cameron: But those figures show that the NHS is treating its long-waiting patients. I’ll tell him what’s happening to waiting lists: total number waiting, down year-on-year; over-18-week waiters, down 24 per cent; over-one-year waiters, down 37 per cent year-on-year. His government punished hospitals for treating long-waiters, we’re making sure they come off the waiting list and onto the operating table.

Ed Miliband: Aren’t you going to mumble defensively about median waiting times like you normally do?

David Cameron: Nope, because I’ve started following @nhsgooroo on Twitter.

Ed Miliband: Oh sugar. How much did he pay you for that one?

Waiting times in England

You can download our waiting times fact checker here: Gooroo NHS waiting times fact checker (now updated for the historical revisions published last month, as well as the latest data).

The number of patients admitted from the waiting list continues to track the seasonal trend of recent years:

Admissions in England
Admissions in England

So does the total number of patients on the English waiting list:

Waiting list in England
Waiting list in England

The NHS’s new target (that 92 per cent of the waiting list must be within 18 weeks) is looking good, and is not rising as it did this time last year. So the NHS is on course for achieving this target at national level when performance management starts in April.

92 per cent of waiting list in England
92 per cent of waiting list in England

The picture is similar at specialty level, but watch out for Orthopaedics in the coming months as it is starting to rise again.

92 percent of waiting list by specialty
92 percent of waiting list by specialty

The new 92 per cent target must be met by every Trust in every specialty, and the proportion of Trust-specialties already achieving it has declined slightly (but not to the extent that it sagged last year):

Providers and specialties with 92 percent of waiting list within 18 weeks
Providers and specialties with 92 percent of waiting list within 18 weeks

Trust top twenty

Every month we run a list of the top twenty Trusts who are furthest from the new 92 per cent target. This month Imperial and the RJAH are missing from the series, but here is the list based on the rest:


Trust 92% of waiting list is within Position in December Change Position in November Over-one-year waiters on list
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust 52+ weeks # 1 no change from # 1 3358
Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 37.3 weeks # 2 no change from # 2 14
Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust 32.5 weeks # 3 no change from # 3 65
Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust 28.9 weeks # 4 up 4 from # 8 15
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust 28.6 weeks # 5 no change from # 5 575
Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust 28.4 weeks # 6 up 3 from # 9 0
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust 26.2 weeks # 7 up 3 from # 10 185
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust 26.0 weeks # 8 down 4 from # 4 0
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust 26.0 weeks # 9 down 2 from # 7 86
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust 25.2 weeks # 10 down 4 from # 6 39
Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust 24.5 weeks # 11 up 5 from # 16 103
Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 24.2 weeks # 12 up 5 from # 17 49
Croydon Health Services NHS Trust 24.0 weeks # 13 up 8 from # 21 80
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust 24.0 weeks # 14 up 13 from # 27 0
Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust 24.0 weeks # 15 down 4 from # 11 22
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust 23.8 weeks # 16 down 4 from # 12 167
Weston Area Health NHS Trust 23.8 weeks # 17 up 18 from # 35 0
Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 23.8 weeks # 18 no change from # 18 0
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 23.7 weeks # 19 up 6 from # 25 0
Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 23.6 weeks # 20 down 6 from # 14 2


The next data release will be the January 2012 data, and will be published by the Department of Health at 9:30am on Thursday 15 March 2012.

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