Halton Patients & NHS Waiting Times

I am very concerned about the health of my constituents.  I have studied the latest NHS waiting times published by the government up to August this year. During the pandemic in Halton, there has been a huge reduction in the number of my constituents receiving NHS treatments within 18 weeks. In March 88.9% of my constituents were seen within the NHS standard of 18-week target, but despite the NHS Phase 3 restoration plan post 1st wave, by August 2020 this fell to just 58.4%.

It is understandable that the 18-week target could not be met during the peak of the first wave, however, to see a decrease of over 30% in just 5 months is worrying to say the least. Especially in a borough where deprivation levels are amongst the worst in the country. This decrease will have a lasting impact on the health and mortality of my constituents.  There will have been some catch up since August, but the backlog will still exist, we shall see to what extent when the September and October figures are published

I would like to now focus on comparisons between August last year, and August this year. In 2019 91.7% of my constituents were seen within the 18-week target, compared to the 58.4% this year. This hit my constituents who needed to be seen for trauma and orthopaedics the worst as the success rate fell from 84.2% to 47.6%. It is all too easy to look at percentages, but this means that 803 of my constituents are facing a prolonged period of pain, and possible disability, which could ultimately lead to a more severe and long-lasting condition which in turn adversely affects their current and future employment and wellbeing.

Whilst looking at the data for Halton, I was appalled to see the impact on gynaecology patients being seen within 18 weeks. It fell from 91.6% in August 2019 to just 57.2% in August 2020. As I have said, percentages never tell the full story, behind the percentages are real people, so let me give you the exact numbers. Of the 909 of my female constituents who required treatment, 389 women were still waiting to be seen. This is scandalous. Gynaecology covers a wide-ranging amount of conditions including hard to diagnose cancers and the women of Halton deserve better. How many will be in excruciating pain with endometriosis? How many will have cancer that does not fit the 2-week wait process – only around 50% of cancers are picked up in this way…that means half are not. The anxiety and stress alone should not be underestimated, this is simply unacceptable and will result in long lasting health conditions. How many are being put on hold for fertility treatment? 

It is clear that the lack of access to treatment taking place now, will have a negative impact on thousands of lives. It is not just about the physical condition of my constituents either, they will also see a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing, their employment and therefore their life chances.

These figures reinforce the concerns I have been raising about the indirect health impact of covid-19.

The longer people must wait for treatments, the less favourable the outcome for many. The routine procedure becomes more difficult. In some cases, the treatable become untreatable.

This is unacceptable. The danger is that the indirect outcomes of covid-19 are with us for many years after the virus is under control. However, the failures and incompetence of this government will see it take even longer to control the virus.

As we now find ourselves in the second wave of the virus, we must assume that waiting times will increase further. Some people will not seek help quickly if they develop symptoms that may be a sign of cancer or coronary disease for example, because they are frightened of going to hospital.  SAGE believes that this wave will be much worse than the first, longer and with more impact on non covid services. This will have a detrimental impact on non-covid patients. What then is the government doing to ensure that both covid and non covid care and treatment is sustained during this second wave and beyond? This will be the question I will be pressing the Government to answer.

I urge my constituents to seek medical help if they develop symptoms.

Derek Twigg MP

Comparison of 18-week targets achieved in August 2019, March 2020, and August 2020 in percentage (Halton patients)

TreatmentAugust 2019March 2020August 2020
General Surgery89.2%87.8%52.4%
Trauma & Ortho84.2%80.6%47.6%
Oral Surgery
General Med100%97.1%              70.6%

Key Points

No treatment achieved 90% in August 2020.

Every treatment fell.

Rheumatology, Dermatology, and Geriatric were the only three treatments to achieve 80%+.

Four treatments failed to hit 50%.

Five additional treatments failed to hit 60%.

Although lockdown began in late March, the majority of treatments stayed at a similar rate to August 2019.

‘Other’ is ambiguous, but the number of patients for each month are similar (2586, 2281, 2367 respectively), however the percentage seen within 18 weeks in August 2020 decreased by over 30%.

18-week target table for August 2020 in numbers (Halton patients)

TreatmentIncomplete pathwaysWithin 18 weeksNot seen in 18 weeks
General Surgery697365332
Trauma & orthopaedic1533730803
Plastic Surgery282132150
General Medicine17125

Key Points

4014 Halton patients were not seen within 18 weeks.

803 trauma and orthopaedic Halton patients were not seen within 18 weeks, the highest number.