By Sanna Anjum, Senior Business Intelligence Analyst, CSL
With NHS waiting times becoming a dominant aspect of daily news, it’s clear the country is facing ongoing challenges. Not only are we seeing increased delays in consultations and treatments, but an unprecedented number of patients are also dying due to debilitating delays in the ambulance service. Latest figures depict a record high of almost 7.1 million people waiting for treatment, with an average waiting time of 14 weeks. Thus far, the impact to patients has been unmatched, but will we see a potential knock-on affect to pharma? Delays in treatment will surely impact pharma’s routine.
In order to assist patients with deducing a realistic view of local waiting times, the NHS has implemented a new, innovative service – My Planned Care. My Planned Care helps patients prepare for hospital consultations, treatments, or surgery, as well as providing information on waiting times at local hospitals and supporting services. With an average of 128 providers supplying data across 3 weeks of November 2022, we’re able to analyse the latest figures and deduce any week over week changes – let’s take a look at some of the key insights we collated.
‘First Average Wait’ refers to the average waiting time for your first appointment with a clinician, having been referred by your GP. ‘Average Wait’ refers to the average waiting time for treatment, which may include a procedure or treatment in an inpatient or outpatient setting. At a national level, we observe average wait times remaining static week over week. In general, patients are having to wait 3 weeks longer for treatment, than they are for an appointment after having been referred by their GP. As we know, with winter comes an influx in patient care – will waiting times worsen over the coming months, thus adding to the immense pressure the NHS is already facing?
The graph to the below represents the top 10% of providers with the longest average waiting time for a patient’s first appointment with a clinician, after having been referred by their GP. When delving into providers, 45% have a ‘First Average Wait’ which is above the national average of 14 weeks; the highest figure reported being 27 weeks at University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust. Although 60% of providers report improvements in ‘First Average Wait’ week over week (albeit small), there are a handful of clear standouts which offer a glimmer of hope to local patients in need. The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust show a particularly significant improvement – the average waiting time for a patient’s first appointment with a clinician lessened by almost 2 weeks across a 3-week period.
As expected, the top 10% of providers with the longest average waiting time for treatment are mostly in line with the top 10% of providers with the longest average waiting time for a patient’s first appointment with a clinician, providing a real insight into the areas facing the most severe delays in patient care. 44% of providers report an ‘Average Wait’ above the national average of 17 weeks, with Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust reporting 27 weeks. Whilst 60% of providers report improvements in ‘First Average Wait’ week over week, under 56% report the equivalent in ‘Average Wait’ – the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust coming in top, with the average waiting time for treatment shortening by almost 2 weeks across the last 3 weeks of November.
An added bonus of My Planned Care includes the ability to assess waiting times by speciality; over 50 specialities are included within the service. Focussing specifically on those specialities with the longest average waiting time for treatment, we’re able to analyse the correlation between ‘First Average Wait’ and ‘Average Wait’. As depicted in the graph below, Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery is proving to be a particular pain point for the NHS, with the average waiting time for treatment being an astounding 31 weeks – more than 3 times that of the average waiting time for a patient’s first appointment with a clinician, after having been referred by their GP. Surgery is proving to be a prominent obstacle for the NHS, with over 40% of providers reporting surgery waiting times being above the national average of 14 weeks.
As 2022 draws to a close and the new year begins, the nation’s focus will undoubtedly be on the NHS and whether remedial measures will be put in place in order to tackle the endless number of patients waiting for care. There is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed towards creating a significant backlog, however a key question remains around if this backlog can be cleared and most importantly, when.
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