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Number of patients waiting too long for elective surgery almost doubles

The number of patients waiting over 18 weeks after being referred for surgery increased by 80% last year, a report has warned.

The Patient’s Association, which analysed data from 2014 and 2015, found that last year 92,258 patients waited more than the maximum 18 weeks set out in the NHS Constitution, compared to 51,388 the year before.

The report further found that average waiting times for five procedures (hip replacement, knee replacement, hernia, adenoid and tonsillectomies) were over 100 days and that 77% of hospital trusts ‘are failing to notify patients of their rights under the NHS Constitution when the 18 week limit has been missed.’

The figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request sent to all trusts in England and exclude the figures for bariatric and gender operations, which were not collected last year.

It also highlighted that each trust cancelled on average 753 patient surgeries ‘on the day’ in 2015, although this varied between trusts from just eight to 3,269.

The report, which is the sixth annual report on waiting times for NHS patients, said: ‘This year’s report based on 2015 data shows that on the whole, waiting times are getting worse, not better.’

But NHS England said it had ‘significant concerns about this report, which is both misleading and statistically flawed’, because it was ‘based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the referral-to-treatment performance standard’.

A spokesperson said: ‘Waits for an NHS operation remain close to an all-time low – down from a maximum wait of 18 months over a decade ago to 18 weeks now, with the average wait less than 10 weeks.

‘Last month, more than nine out of 10 patients were waiting less than 18 weeks to start consultant-led treatment. We continue to make strides in cutting long waits, with the number of patients waiting over a year slashed from over 5,000 recorded in March 2012 to being in the hundreds now.

‘In the last five years, since June 2011, the NHS has reduced the number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment by over 12,000.’