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Patients Association - The wait for NHS operations getting longer and longer

“It’s crunch time” say patients 

NHS patients are waiting longer than ever for surgical procedures such as hip replacements and cataracts, according to new research published by the Patients Association today Saturday 25th July 2015. In its fifth annual report on hospital waiting times for elective surgical procedures in England, the Patients Association declares: 

“We have now come to the crunch: the average waiting times for each of the seven key surgeries we have studied are all above 90 days. Moreover, in the vast majority of areas, NHS Trusts have breached the NHS Constitution’s 18 week wait limit between referral and receiving surgeries for some patients.”

It says that there is a wide variation in waiting times across England, with the postcode lottery as stark as ever and overall, there are long, and lengthening, waiting times for hip replacement, knee replacement, operations on hernias, adenoids, gallstones, cataracts and tonsillectomies

Based on the responses from 110 Freedom of Information requests sent to 156 hospital trusts, the Patients Association says that:

  • The most significant rise has been seen in the wait for cataracts, up from 69 days in 2013 to 93 days in 2014.
  • Knee procedures continue to have the longest wait at 107 days.
  • The East of England region has the longest waiting times for knee replacements operations with a mean average of 113 days, 6 days above the national average. 
  • The shortest average waiting time for any procedure is found within the London region, at 85 days wait for cataract operations, which is still a lengthy time for any patient to wait. 
  • The response rate to FOI requests has improved to 70.51% of hospital trusts from 53.7% last year. 
  • The London region had the worst response rate at 62.5%. 

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive, The Patients Association said: 

“Waiting times are more than a statistic. Delayed and cancelled operations can seriously impact patients’ independence, mobility, ability to work and socialise, and prolong periods of pain or suffering that could be shortened by timely surgery……these findings should be seen as a wake-up call and spur commissioners, policy makers and politicians to take radical steps to improve the speed of NHS provision….patients cannot wait any longer.” 

“The challenges to the NHS must not excuse failings in the quality of treatment or patients’ experience of care. As always, patients must come first.”

Notes for Editors

The 26 page report entitled “Crunch Time” contains graphs and detailed regional breakdown of responses from hospital trust in London, Midlands and East of England, North and South of England. 

View Report:


The Patients Association is an independent national health and social care charity established over 52 years ago, and has a long history of campaigning to ensure that the voice of patients is heard within the Health and Social care system.

For further information please contact the Patients Association on 020 8423 9111 alternatively you can call 07779 004898.

You can also visit us on our website at www.patients-association.org.uk

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