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Patients Association Slams Increase in Waiting Times for Elective Surgical Procedures.

Author:The Patients Association
Date Added:19 April 2012

The Patients Association today revealed results of research which showed a dramatic increase in waiting times for surgical procedures and a decline in the number of operations being carried out.


The figures cast serious doubt on claims by NHS decision makers that waiting times are falling, and has lead to the organisation calling for more transparency about waiting times in individual clinical areas.


The Patients Association sent a Freedom of Information request to NHS Acute Trusts in England, asking them to provide waiting time figures in nine key areas-


  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Hernia
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Tonsillectomy
  • Adenoid
  • Gallstone
  • Hysterectomy
  • Cataract


These are the same procedures that the Patients Association asked about in an identical survey published in March 2010.  They were chosen following complaints to their Helpline about waiting times or treatment denials in these areas from patients and clinicians.


Last year’s research showed a considerable increases in waiting times (for example 8 days for knee and hip replacement surgery) and a decline in procedures of 5.4%, or 10757. This year’s results show a clear continuation of those trends.


Waiting Times-2011


  • Of the 93 trusts that responded with sufficient data (excluding bariatric surgery which showed a fall but had a low response rate) waiting times had increased in seven of the eight categories included in the report.
  • In total waiting times increased by 6% in 2011 when compared to 2010.


Number of Surgical Procedures Conducted-2011


  • Of the 93 Trusts that responded with sufficient data, a drop in the number of surgical procedures was seen in seven of the eight categories (Bariatric surgery was excluded due to the small number of trusts that replied with data in this area).
  • In total there were 18628 fewer operations performed in 2011 compared to 2010. This accounts for a drop of 4.6% in the total number of operations carried out across the areas included in the survey



Procedures Conducted-More info


  • For the 59 trusts that showed a decrease in the number of operations conducted, there were 25,000 fewer operations.
  • The biggest decrease was in cataract operations, which showed a decline of 14,267.
  • In percentage terms, the decline in cataract procedures amounts to a 7.5% decrease in the number of procedures conducted. Adenoid procedures also fell by the same amount. The number of Tonsillectomies  conducted fell by 5.6%, and the number of Hernia procedures by 3.3%


Waiting Times-More Info


  • The largest increase in waiting times was for knee replacements, which saw an increase in waiting times of 10.3 days on average. Waits for hernia operations increased by 8 days, Gallstones by 7 days and hips by 6 days.
  • In terms of percentage change, waits for knee, hernia and Gallstone operations all increased by 10%.


The patients association have been contacted by a number of patients that have experienced long waits in recent years. These include:


·         David Evans, a farmer who had to wait 51 weeks for a hernia operation and ended up using the ultrasound equipment he normally uses on sheep to put his hernia back into place

·         Mary Salisbury, whose year and a half wait for surgery on her back left her “very depressed and introspective.”

·         William Waters, who whilst waiting for a hip operation for 28 weeks said “The pain was constant and left me completely debilitated.”


Speaking about the findings of the research Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association said “ Our report last year showed that waiting times were going up for these surgical procedures, whilst the number of operations actually taking place was falling. Unfortunately the results this year show a continuation of the trend and an even more marked increase in waiting times.  We hear lots of talk from the Government about waiting times falling but whilst this may be true in other areas, it doesn’t address the problem in relation to elective surgical procedures.


Patients are calling our Helpline to tell us that they are being left to wait in agony, and that their desperate calls to the Hospital for help are being ignored.  Clinicians may deem these procedures to be of low clinical value, but that is irrelevant for a patient being asked to put up with a lower quality of life for longer. Action must be taken now to ensure that the upward trend on waiting times and downward trend for the number of procedures conducted does not continue into 2013 and beyond. There needs to be transparency about waiting times for particular procedures, and problem areas need to be tackled.


All of the case studies mentioned in the report are available for interview, please contact 0208 423 9111.




  1. The Patients Association is a campaigning charity, listening to patients and speaking up for change. It has been working for nearly 50 years to make sure that the patient voice is heard and listened to by policy makers.
  2. For further information please contact the Patients Association on 02084239111 or on 07779004898 if outside of the hours 9-5.30pm.
  3. To see last year’s report please visit


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Helpline: 0845 608 4455   Email:

The Patients Association, PO Box 935, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 3YJ

T: 020 8423 9111   F: 020 8423 9119   E:

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