NHS in east of England cuts number of longest waits by almost quarter in a month

NHS staff across the east of England have reduced the number of patients waiting more than 18 months by 23% in just one month, despite the busiest winter ever.

The total number of patients waiting more than 18 months in the east of England has fallen by 23% from 5,625 on 15 Jan to 4,348 as of 12 February.

This significant progress comes despite thousands of appointments in acute trusts being affected by industrial action since the start of December, with many operations and check-ups having to be rescheduled.

The NHS has experienced record pressure this winter with the fears of a ‘twindemic’ becoming a reality – resurgent flu combined with ongoing Covid – and the highest ever levels of demand for A&E and most urgent ambulance call outs.

Bed occupancy remained incredibly high since November with over 19 in 20 beds consistently occupied and a high of over 1,300 beds a day being taken up by patients medically fit for discharge in the east of England.

Some of the largest trusts have a greater total number of long waiters but are making significant progress in reducing their backlogs at speed.


NHS national elective recovery director, Sir James Mackey, said:

“Despite record pressure on hospital teams up and down the country this winter, it is incredibly encouraging to see so many trusts making huge progress in bringing down the longest waits for patients.

“Whether it is the continued expansion of surgical hubs benefiting thousands more patients this year, or joined up working between trusts through mutual aid, the NHS elective recovery programme really does show the benefit of a single national health service with hardworking staff across the country coming together, sharing ideas and building on each other’s successes to bring down the covid backlog.

“We know we have more to do ahead of our aim to virtually eliminate waits of more than 18 months by April, which is why we are working closely with the small number of trusts who have the biggest challenges, while innovating for the future with use of tools like artificial intelligence, surgical robots and online portals – making it easier for patients to manage appointments.”

In the east of England, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is on track to open three new operating theatres later this year at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, increasing capacity by a fifth to help cut waiting lists for routine orthopaedic operations – such as knee and hip replacements.

Milton Keynes University Hospital has successfully completed more than 450 cases using a surgical robotic system, used across a range of procedures including colorectal, gynaecology, general surgery, upper GI surgery and urology. The robot improves outcomes, upskills teams, and enables patients to go home sooner.