Longest NHS waits fall again

NHS England has announced improvements to the longest waits, urgent and emergency services and cancer care.

The number of patients waiting more than 18 months fell to 10,737 by April – down by more than 90% from 124,911 in September 2021.

Ambulance response times have also improved, with average category two response times now at 28.5 minutes and category one at eight minutes.

The number of people waiting two months or more for cancer services is now at 19,248 at the end of this March, down from 21,823 at the end of last March. Urgent suspected cancer referrals are at record high levels.

The NHS Elective Recovery Plan aimed to virtually eliminate those waiting 18-months of more for elective treatment by April. Half of NHS providers had no remaining waiters other than those who had chosen to wait longer or need complex surgery, and ore than one in five NHS providers had completely eliminated 18-month waits.

The NHS also delivered 2.3 million diagnostic tests and checks in March - a record.

NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard, said: “The great strides the NHS is making on long waits, urgent and emergency care, and cancer services in the face of incredible pressure is testimony to the hard work, drive and innovation of frontline colleagues.

“Since we first published the NHS Elective Recovery Plan last year, we have slashed the numbers waiting the longest for care with 18-month waits down more than 90% on their peak.

“Ambulance response times are the fastest they have been for almost two years while A&E performance has also improved.

“And thanks to record numbers of tests and checks, the cancer backlog has fallen year on year for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

“There is still much work to be done but these are remarkable achievements given all the NHS has had to contend with – including the twindemic of flu and covid driving record demand that made for the busiest winter in our history.

“I am proud of each of my colleagues who has worked tirelessly to deliver for patients.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “I promised I would cut NHS waiting lists and we are delivering.

“Reducing 18-month waits by over 90% is huge progress, and it is testament to the hard work of NHS staff who have achieved this despite one of the busiest winters on record.

“We still have work to do, but backed by record government investment and the ongoing efforts of the NHS, I am confident we will get patients the care they need more quickly.”