Record NHS waiting times - behind every number is someone's story

The latest NHS data shows that a record number of people are waiting for care, although the number of people waiting a year or more has fallen slightly. Read our response.

New NHS data indicates that although progress is being made to tackle the number of people waiting for care, over six million people are currently on waiting lists for specialist clinical care or surgery. 

The new data published by the NHS looks at performance in essential areas such as waiting times for elective care, and Accident and Emergency attendance and admissions. 

How many people are waiting?

Over 6.18 million people are now waiting for care. This figure has been steadily increasing since May 2020 and is now up by 80,000 cases. This level is a record high for the NHS elective waiting list. 

When it comes to how long people are waiting, the good news is that the number of patients waiting over a year for treatment has decreased by 12,050. The number of patients waiting over two years for treatment has also decreased slightly.

What can be done about the issue?

The Government has invested extra money, and the NHS has published a plan to tackle waiting times. However, it will take time to reduce waiting times, and our last report on the issue called for more to be done to support people while they wait for care. 

Responding to the new NHS data, our National Director, Louise Ansari, said:

"The NHS faced challenges before the pandemic, but today’s waiting times figures highlight the scale of the issue we face. It’s important to remember that behind every number is someone’s story. The impact on those left waiting is very real and, in some situations, can cause harm. 

"People have told us about operations cancelled with little notice, about not hearing from the NHS even when support had been agreed, being left to cope with painful symptoms that worsen over time. We've called on the NHS to do more to support people while they wait.

"We need a greater focus to support those in pain to manage. We need to limit harm by enabling people to tell services when their symptoms are getting worse. Better communication and administration will also help ensure people don’t feel left alone to cope and don’t have treatment unnecessarily cancelled.

“People know the NHS is working hard to get to them as soon as possible, the Government has invested extra money, but it’s how we manage the backlog that matters."

My health and mobility is decreasing with every month that goes past. Without intervention I will be wheelchair bound instead of me walking the dog every day. I will soon need help with personal care, cleaning etc. because my conditions have not been adequately monitored and treated for 18 months.
— Patient story, November 2021

What is it like waiting for care?

We analysed the stories of more than 2,500 people about their experiences, helping us to dig beneath the headlines and support the NHS to make good policy decisions. Read the experiences people shared with us, and the steps they think would help them while waiting for care. 

Read our research


Do health and social care services know what you really think?

Share your ideas and experiences and help services hear what works, what doesn’t, and what you want from care in the future. 

Share your views