18-week waits still improving

by Rob Findlay

Long-waiters continued to fall in May, according to the latest statistics, with new record lows for the numbers waiting longer than 18, 26, 39 and 52 weeks. The falls were concentrated at the longest-waiting end of the waiting list, and (slightly worryingly) there was some relaxation in services that are already achieving the target, so that the 92nd centile waiting time for incomplete pathways actually rose slightly from 16.0 to 16.2 weeks.

In a pleasing bit of numerical symmetry, a record 92 per cent of Trusts achieved the new target that 92 per cent of the waiting list must be within 18 weeks, up from 64 per cent a year earlier (for all specialties combined). Drilling down further to Trust-specialty level, the proportion of services achieving the new target rose to a record high of 85 per cent.

A surge in admissions meant that the numbers of long-waiters being admitted rose from April to May, although the proportion of long-waiters being admitted was lower, and closed the gap on (but did not fall below) the level set at the General Election. (So my prediction was wrong… maybe next month.)

Admitted and incomplete trends
Admitted and incomplete trends

The original data presented here is from the Department of Health (who have developed some nice new tools and trends), and our version of the trends is available in our waiting times fact checker.

England-wide picture

The total number of patients on the waiting list continues to track the trend of recent years with uncanny accuracy:

Size of waiting list
Size of waiting list

The number of patients admitted for treatment was higher than in recent years, because May 2012 had 22 working days compared with 20 in May 2011 and 19 in May 2010.

Admissions from waiting list
Admissions from waiting list

Long-waiters on the list continued to fall, especially for the longest-waiters. The following chart is displayed with a logarithmic scale to show the proportional reductions:

Long-waiters on list
Long-waiters on list

The national 92nd centile waiting time ticked up slightly, but remained comfortably below the 18 week target.

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

In line with the general picture that longest waits have improved the most, those specialties with long waiting times have improved but those already achieving 18 weeks have relaxed a little. This will be a cause for concern if the pattern continues.

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

Having broken through the 80 per cent level for the first time in April, the proportion of Trust-specialties achieving the new incomplete pathways target galloped confidently to 85 per cent in May.

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


Trust top twenty

So many Trusts are now achieving the incomplete pathways target that our top twenty includes (for the first time) some Trusts where 92 per cent of the waiting list is within 18 weeks; 7 of the 20, in fact. If this carries on we will have to slim the list down to a top ten. (Imperial did not submit data in May, but are expected to return to the data series imminently.)

Trust 92% of waiting list is within Position in May Change Position in April Over-one-year waiters on list
The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS FT 37.0 weeks # 1 no change from # 1 97
North Bristol NHS Trust 29.9 weeks # 2 up 1 from # 3 283
Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust 26.0 weeks # 3 up 1 from # 4 7
James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 25.5 weeks # 4 down 2 from # 2 0
Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust 22.0 weeks # 5 no change from # 5 57
Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust 20.3 weeks # 6 up 1 from # 7 88
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust 20.0 weeks # 7 down 1 from # 6 308
King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 19.9 weeks # 8 up 2 from # 10 204
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust 19.7 weeks # 9 up 5 from # 14 67
Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust 19.4 weeks # 10 down 2 from # 8 0
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust 19.4 weeks # 11 up 2 from # 13 56
Croydon Health Services NHS Trust 18.8 weeks # 12 down 3 from # 9 0
University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust 18.3 weeks # 13 up 2 from # 15 105
Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust 18.0 weeks # 14 up 21 from # 35 8
Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust 17.9 weeks # 15 up 12 from # 27 14
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 17.9 weeks # 16 up 27 from # 43 6
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust 17.9 weeks # 17 up 11 from # 28 58
Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 17.9 weeks # 18 up 11 from # 29 15
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust 17.9 weeks # 19 up 33 from # 52 8
Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust 17.8 weeks # 20 up 5 from # 25 0


Congratulations are in order for the following Trusts who have dropped off the table with large reductions in their 92nd centile waiting times for incomplete pathways: Royal Berkshire (20.7 to 15.3 weeks), St George’s (20.6 to 17.4 weeks), East Cheshire (18.3 to 17.2 weeks), The Whittington (18.3 to 15.6 weeks), and Great Ormond Street (18.2 to 16.9 weeks).

18-week statistics for June are due out at 9:30am on Thu 16 August.

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