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More than five million on NHS waiting lists by 2019, leaked document suggests

NHS Improvement presentation shows a potential rise to 5.5 million people on NHS waiting lists.

More than five million people could be waiting for NHS treatment by 2019, leaked documents suggest.


Waiting list figures could be set to soar over the next two years. Picture: iStock

If the NHS fails to take action, the waiting list – which is now at 3.7 million – will continue to grow, according to an NHS Improvement presentation.

The target for 92% of patients to be treated within 18 weeks of referral from their GP has not been hit since February 2016.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said he expects waiting times to rise as a ‘trade-off’ for improvement in other areas, such as hitting the four-hour emergency department target and better cancer care.

The document, leaked to Health Service Journal (HSJ), said the number of patients waiting more than four months for surgery could more than double to 800,000 by 2019.

Missed targets

The projections are a so-called ‘do nothing’ scenario in which performance against targets deteriorates significantly over the next two years.

An NHS Improvement spokesperson told HSJ: ‘Doing nothing is not an option for the NHS.

‘These slides were part of a presentation to hospital leaders about steps being taken to improve NHS performance.

‘We are working with providers to improve their overall operational productivity and to help reduce waiting times for patients.’


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