The number of NHS patients waiting for hospital treatment could soar to more than five million in just two years’ time, a leaked document has revealed.
If no action is taken, twice as many people will be forced to wait more than 18 weeks for non-emergency surgery such as hip replacements and cataract operations by 2019, according to projections made by health service regulator NHS Improvement.
Total waiting list numbers are expected to rise by nearly 50 per cent from 3.7 million to 5.5 million, based on current trends – resulting in delays that surgeons have warned may result in death or serious disability.
Ian Eardley, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said the “devastating” figures obtained by the Health Service Journal “hammer home just how damaging deprioritising the 18-week target for planned surgery will potentially be”.
The target that no patient should have to wait longer than 18 weeks after GP referral for non-emergency surgery has been in place since 2004.