Advice Centre


4.7 million waiting for NHS Treatment

It has been in the news about the latest figures of how many people have been waiting for more than a year for treatment on the NHS. This is about 4.7 million. A terrible consequence of the pandemic as well as previous years of underfunding.  This is the largest number since records began in 2007.

According to Sky news,  in February 2020, the number of people waiting for a year for treatment was around 1,613 but in February 2021, the figure is 387,885. Routine operation in 2020 were in the region of 285,918 but in 2021 this fell to 152,647, so about 47%.

Charities like MacMillan Cancer support are worried about the ‘catastrophic’ impact of Covid-19 on cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Many people will miss being diagnosed and many will be diagnosed late. This could mean a delay in treatment and sadly, an impact on their recovery as well as overall prognosis.

The government is confident that the backlog of 4.7 million people waiting for treatment will be dealt with and it is hoped the NHS will be given the funding as well as the medically qualified staff along with new hospitals to enable them to clear the backlog. Patient confidence will need to be restored though most will understand that this is due to the pressures caused on the NHS due to the pandemic.  Many patients will be dealing with the worry of waiting not knowing what might be in store for them and what the future holds for them and their family.

As a Clinical negligence practitioner representing clients who have suffered we see the emotional impact on our clients and their families.   There have been funding challenges in the NHS for years but without more funding and support we cannot expect the NHS to perform magic. They need to be enabled  to continue to do what they do best which is to give first rate care to their patients. The pandemic has made matters worse and perhaps given all of us an opportunity to put things right.    Sadly, in the meantime the longer it takes to  the clear the backlog the more patients will suffer from delayed diagnosis and missed diagnosis as well as uncertainty.

The 12 months plus waiting time is shockingly too long for many patients and their families yet at the same time the hard work done by the NHS staff cannot be disregarded. They have had to work in some incredibly difficult circumstances.   Aside from acknowledging the problems there needs to be a clear road map as to how our national health service is restored to its full glorious potential. Many of those working in the NHS will be emotionally exhausted. Training, recruitment of new staff and along with better systems to support NHS staff and patients in these unusual times is needed.

We are already hearing from many clients who are concerned about long delays with cancer treatment and referrals. When patients are in pain we encourage them to seek medical care. It is deeply sad as we know very likely they have to wait patiently for their turn.

Efforts are now being made to progress cancer referrals and urgent referral care as well as for elective procedures. However, amidst the data,  behind every patient there is suffering and a human story. Patients waiting for treatment will feel anxious and helpless.  Their families and friends will want to support them but will feel equally helpless.

To put some context to all this, as a nation many lives have been lost already to Covid-19 and many lives have been changed forever. Many are incredibly grateful for the treatment and care they have received and many will feel they are not visible.  Those in the NHS and in the medical profession are doing their best in what are difficult and surreal circumstance. There is no straight forward quick fix and very likely this may take many years for things to improve, sadly, for those who are unwell they may not have years to wait!

How can we help you?

If you or your loved one have suffered due to medical negligence and would like an informal chat with our medical negligence team please give us a call on 0330 107 0107 or contact us by email at and a member of our team will be more than happy to arrange a call back for a free no obligation and informal chat to see if we can help you or even signpost you as to what your options might be.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

Publisher Details

Published by: Daxa Patel

Partner & Solicitor

Clinical Negligence

IMD Solicitors LLP

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