NHS waiting lists will take ‘many years’ to deal with - your rights as a patient explained

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 3:06 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 3:06 pm
NHS waiting lists will take ‘many years’ to deal with - your rights as a patient explained (Photo: Shutterstock)

Healthcare waiting lists in the UK will take “many years” to be dealt with, as some currently stand at their longest for 20 years, the NHS Confederation chief executive has said.

Once the impacts of the spike of Covid-19 hospitalisations in January and February are understood, waiting lists are “still going to be significantly higher than we have seen for a very, very long time,” Danny Mortimer said.

224,000 waiting longer than 52 weeks

A total of 4.52 million people are currently on the NHS waiting list, with 224,000 of those waiting longer than 52 weeks.

Speaking to Times Radio, Mr Mortimer said that honesty from both politicians and the NHS with the public about the scale of the task will be “really, really important”.

Efforts will be needed to “explain as clearly as we can what is going to happen and what sort of choices are being made, and sadly how long it is going to take for us to get back to where we desperately want to be,” he added.

President of the Royal College of Surgeon, Professor Neil Mortensen, said “a big plan” will be needed to tackle the waiting list issue.

Also speaking to Times Radio, Prof Mortensen said: “I think surgeons are very prepared to be flexible. I think there needs to be more operating time. There needs to be more opening hours for surgery and surgery hubs.”

With a stacked waiting list, surgeons face a lack of access to theatres and the staff who work there, including anaesthetists, are very tired.

“We have already done well with remote outpatient appointments, with patients not having to come to hospital for assessment and follow-up, but staff are tired and need a pause, particularly for surgery we need the help of our friendly anaesthetists,” Prof Mortensen continued.

“We can’t really do anything without having a really good theatre team.”

What are your rights when it comes to waiting times?

In England, if you’re referred to the NHS for a physical or mental health condition, you have the legal right to start non-urgent consultant-led treatment, or be seen by a specialist for suspected cancer, with maximum waiting times.

Your waiting time starts from when the hospital or service receives your referral letter, or when you book your first appointment through the NHS e-Referral Service.

The maximum waiting time for non-urgent, consultant-led treatments is 18 weeks from the day your appointment is booked through the NHS e-Referral Service, or when the hospital or service receives your referral letter.

The maximum waiting time for suspected cancer is two weeks from the day your appointment is booked through the NHS e-Referral Service, or when the hospital or service receives your referral letter.

You have the legal right to ask to be seen or treated by a different provider if you're likely to wait longer than the maximum waiting time specified for your treatment.

In Scotland, under the Charter of Patients Rights and Responsibilities, you have certain rights and responsibilities when using the NHS.

For waiting times, It's important that these be respected if patients are to receive treatment in the shortest time possible.

Your rights and responsibilities apply to waiting times in the following ways:

  • Availability
  • Appointments
  • Attendance