NHS consolidates its position on waiting times

by Rob Findlay

The NHS in England met all its 18-week waiting times targets again in February, consolidating January’s first-ever success on all three measures. Although long-waits are improving in the run-up to April’s new target, the overall number on the waiting list remains unchanged compared with recent years.

The number of over-one-year waiters on the waiting list fell again to a new record low, but progress is slowing as the blitz on validating long-waiters runs out of steam. Sure, 5,696 over-one-year waiters is a lot better than 14,880 the year before, but it’s still 5,696 too many. When the NHS admits 50 times as many patients every month, why are these patients still on the waiting list? Also, why are so many (2,132) in London?

For all the stats and time trends, you can download our updated waiting times fact checker here.

Imperial are still on a reporting holiday, but we welcome the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt orthopaedic hospital back to the data series (minus the suspicious hill in the middle of their waiting list); it is much better to have those one-year-waiters where everybody can see them, than to risk them dropping out of sight and out of mind.

Apart from that there are the usual caveats: the data excludes patients who are being held up by referral restrictions, and backlogs that may be building up for post-treatment follow-up.

England-wide picture

Both admissions and the total list size continue to track the trajectories of recent years. No sign of austerity hitting overall activity, nor of the NHS reducing waiting lists below their current level.

Waiting list size
Waiting list size

The new target, that 92 per cent of the waiting list (incomplete pathways) must be below 18 weeks RTT, starts  in April. At national level the NHS achieved it ahead of time in January, and has continued this improvement in February.

92 per cent of waiting list
92 per cent of waiting list

All major specialties reported improvement against this measure, except Orthopaedics which roughly maintained its position.

92 per cent of waiting list by specialty
92 per cent of waiting list by specialty

The new target must be met in every specialty and in every NHS organisation and, although more services are getting there, some 28 per cent of Trust-specialties are still below target. Expect this number to improve sharply over the next two months as Trusts scramble to avoid the “performance management” thumbscrews.

Provider-specialties with 92 per cent of waiting list within 18 weeks
Provider-specialties with 92 per cent of waiting list within 18 weeks


Trust top twenty

The twenty Trusts with the greatest waiting time pressures (omitting Imperial who did not submit data) are:

Trust 92% of waiting list is within Position in February Change Position in January Over-one-year waiters on list
The Robert Jones And Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 35.4 weeks # 1 no data no data 63
Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust 27.7 weeks # 2 no change from # 2 0
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust 25.7 weeks # 3 no change from # 3 457
Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust 25.0 weeks # 4 up 5 from # 9 138
Croydon Health Services NHS Trust 24.2 weeks # 5 up 2 from # 7 93
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust 24.0 weeks # 6 no change from # 6 86
St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust 23.9 weeks # 7 up 32 from # 39 419
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust 23.7 weeks # 8 up 2 from # 10 102
Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust 23.0 weeks # 9 up 11 from # 20 5
King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 22.8 weeks # 10 up 7 from # 17 242
Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust 22.7 weeks # 11 up 8 from # 19 1
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust 22.1 weeks # 12 down 11 from # 1 7
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 21.9 weeks # 13 up 2 from # 15 0
Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust 21.9 weeks # 14 down 2 from # 12 0
North Bristol NHS Trust 21.9 weeks # 15 up 10 from # 25 125
Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 21.6 weeks # 16 down 5 from # 11 40
Barts and The London NHS Trust 21.5 weeks # 17 up 5 from # 22 51
Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust 21.4 weeks # 18 down 10 from # 8 8
Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 21.3 weeks # 19 up 5 from # 24 37
University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 21.3 weeks # 20 up 8 from # 28 263


Congratulations are in order to the following Trusts for dropping out of the table altogether with big reductions in long-waits: Weston (whose 92nd centile fell from 24.9 to 16.9 weeks); Great Ormond Street (25.5 to 20.1), and Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership (with a whopping 23.4 to 12.1 week reduction).

The next 18-weeks statistics release from the Department of Health is expected at 9:30am on Thursday 17 May.

Return to Post Index