Concerning Trends in England’s Hospital Waiting Lists

The National Health Service (NHS) is a cornerstone of healthcare in England. However, recent NHS England data indicates a concerning trend: the hospital waiting lists have risen to 7.57 million

The Current Scenario

The hospital backlog in England has seen a slight increase over the past month. The waiting list hit 7.57 million at the end of April, up from 7.54 million the previous month. This rise, albeit small, is significant as it indicates a growing pressure on the healthcare system.

The Impact on Healthcare

The rising waiting list has become a key election issue, with the prime minister making it one of his five priorities for government. The numbers waiting for treatment are not just statistics; they represent individuals who need medical attention. This situation calls for a comprehensive strategy to address the backlog and ensure timely access to healthcare for all.

Long waits for Cancer Patients Becoming the Norm

Data from the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) also warns of long waits for cancer care becoming routine across the UK. The RCR report was based on responses from senior managers at 60 specialist cancer centres in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

The survey, carried out in November 2023, found that the number of centres experiencing severe delays had almost doubled in a year. Managers at 47% of sites said patients needing chemotherapy and other cancer drugs were facing delays “most weeks or every week” - up from reports of delays at 28% of sites the previous year.

Centres reporting weekly delays to radiotherapy also nearly doubled, from 22% in 2022 to 43% in 2023. Almost all clinical directors surveyed said workforce shortages were causing backlogs1. The college reported a “staggering” 30% shortfall in radiologists and a 15% shortfall in clinical oncologists.

Nuanced Issue

While we can glean some insights from these reports, it’s important to remember that they are a snapshot of a complex situation. The healthcare system is multifaceted, and numerous factors contribute to the length of waiting lists. These can include resource allocation, staffing levels, and even seasonal variations in demand for services.

It’s also worth noting that while the waiting list has increased, it is still lower than the September peak of 7.77 million. This suggests that efforts are being made to address the issue, but there is still a long way to go to resolve the issue.


The rise in hospital waiting lists in England is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention. As we continue to monitor the situation, it’s crucial to focus on solutions that can help reduce the backlog and improve patient care. This includes investing in healthcare infrastructure, addressing staffing shortages, and implementing efficient patient management strategies.

You can learn more about the above issues below:

Statistics » Referral to Treatment (RTT) Waiting Times (

Cancer care in peril as workforce crisis escalates, warns Royal College of Radiologists | The Royal College of Radiologists (

Hospital waiting lists rise to 7.57m - BBC News

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