NHS waiting lists: Sheffield MP slams Government 'failure' as 64,000 waiting for hospital appointments

A Sheffield MP says city hospital waiting list figures of almost 64,000 patients are a symptom of Government ‘failure’ of the NHS.

By Julia Armstrong
Thursday, 17th February 2022, 7:23 pm
Updated Monday, 21st February 2022, 2:13 pm

The latest figures from the NHS from the Office of National Statistics quoted by Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake show that at the end of December 2021, there were 63,936 people on the waiting list at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust.

A total of 1,149 people had been waiting for more than a year for an appointment and 20 people had been waiting more than two years.

Waiting times for Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust were also high, with 12,616 people on the waiting list. And 393 patients have been waiting for more than a year and 14 waiting more than two years.

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The Royal Hallamshire Hospital - Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake says that waiting times for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust were among the top 30 highest in the country

The NHS went into the latest wave of Covid infections with the longest waiting lists on record, said Ms Blake.

At the outbreak of the Covid pandemic there were 4.4 million people on the NHS waiting list in England, then a record high. Nationally, the standard of 92% of people seen within 18 weeks of a referral has not been met since 2016. Now, 1 in every 9 people in England are on the NHS waiting list.

These figures come as the Government published its elective care recovery plan for the NHS this week. Labour have criticized the plan for its lack of ambition, only aiming to reduce waiting times in 2024.

Olivia Blake, who was previously a researcher in the NHS, is also concerned that the Government's plans fail to set out how it will address the workforce shortages the NHS is facing.

Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam, has slammed the Government for its 'failure' over growing NHS hospital waiting lists

‘Many Sheffield hospital staff are at breaking point’

She said: “People in Sheffield are being forced to wait months and even years for treatment, often in pain and discomfort.

"Now the Government is telling them that, despite hiking up their national insurance, waiting times won’t start going down until 2024. It's unacceptable.

“And it's not just patients paying the price. Our local healthcare staff have worked heroically throughout the pandemic but they have been overstretched and understaffed like never before.

"From conversations with hospital staff, I know many are at breaking point.

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“The Government must give our NHS staff and Hospital Trusts the support they need to get patients the quality of care they deserve, when they need it - not two years later.

Ms Blake added: “Instead of properly addressing the crisis facing our NHS, the Government is introducing a new Health and Care Bill which will do nothing to address waiting times, and will only make things worse for patients and staff.

“It is astounding, but not surprising, that after nine years of failure, and a year of handing millions to Tory cronies for useless PPE and failed and privatised test, track and trace, the Government is now going to increase the influence of private companies in our NHS. This is the last thing our public health service needs, now or ever.”

What does Sheffield Teaching Hospitals say about patient waiting lists?

Kirsten Major, chief executive of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Throughout the pandemic we have continued to carry out as many operations, tests and cancer care as we possibly could. We also understand how distressing it is for those patients who are waiting for any procedure.

"For example, in December 2021 we carried out 1,500 more diagnostic tests (19,000 in total) than in December 2020, 108,000 day case operations and almost 20,000 inpatient procedures.

"This was in addition to over 31,000 emergency admissions. In total in December 2021 we provided care for almost 160,000 patients.

"Our average waiting time is still one of the best in the NHS with most patients having treatment within 8-10 weeks of being referred by their GP but despite this hard work we do have an increased number of people on the waiting list since the pandemic began.

"This is because some care has continued to be paused because our beds have been taken up with a higher number of emergency patients than normal as well as over 6,000 COVID patients during the last 2 years.

"On top of that we are now seeing a significant rise in referrals because people are once again coming forward to their GPs with different illnesses or injuries.

"The key thing we are focusing on is keeping the waiting time for people to get treatment as low as we can because whilst we will reduce the number of people on the waiting list, it is a live list and new patients are added as others come off it due to ongoing GP referrals.

"Now that the latest wave of Omicron has started to reduce and some of the restrictions we had to put in place are lifted we are once again working hard to get even more operations, procedures and diagnostics done as quickly as we can.

"We are currently working with NHS England and other partners to explore ways we can create even more capacity to achieve this as part of the national NHS elective recovery plan published last week.”