English waiting lists narrowly avoided two rotten headlines in April, and improved where it matters most. But trouble is still building in the longest wait specialties

By the barest of margins the English waiting list managed to limbo under the 3 million mark in April - 2,993,108 on the official figures - and restored its performance against the 90 per cent admitted target - at a bar rattling 90.04 per cent.

‘The official list size would already have passed 3 million if all trusts were submitting their figures’

More importantly, it improved the long waiting end of the waiting list, and in a single month recovered most of the slowly lost ground of the last year against the 92 per cent of the waiting list target.

As noted in the last couple of months, the official list size would already have passed 3 million if all trusts were submitting their figures.

In April, six trusts did not report, mainly because of problems with new IT systems.

In the following analysis, all figures come from NHS England. If you have a national statistic that you would like to check up on, download our Gooroo NHS waiting times fact checker.

England wide picture

The waiting list grew by a typical amount for the time of year, and scraped in just below the 3 million mark at 2,993,108 - not including six trusts that did not report, and that would definitely have pushed the numbers well above 3 million.

Gooroo_Waiting_list_in_England

After a year end surge in March, admission rates in April fell back closer to normal levels.

HSJ_Admissions_per_working_day

There was not much movement on long waits; not that the one year waits figure is really trustworthy with so many trusts not reporting data.

HSJ_Long_waiters_still_on_waiting_list

The long end of the waiting list got a little shorter in April, reversing most of the gradual decline of the last year.

Without wanting to rain on the parade though, I cannot help noticing that this down tick seems to happen every year.

HSJ_92pc_of_waiting_list

The improvement in 92nd centile waiting times was not shared by the longest waiting specialties, which got worse, with the notable exception of plastics, which is making rapid improvements.

HSJ_92pc_of_waiting_list_by_specialty

The general improvement in waiting times was shared by a rising proportion of local services keeping 92 per cent of their waiting list within 18 weeks.

HSJ_Services_achieving_92pc_target

 

In March the improvements were mostly at the shorter wait end of the spectrum, and in April the longer waiters caught up a bit.

HSJ_Distribution_of_92pc_waits_by_service

Local detail

Nuffield Health, a provider in Woking, have suddenly popped up at the top of the table because the table only includes providers with at least 1,000 patients on the list and now they have 1,094. They are closely followed by Basildon, who have popped right up into second place.

There is no way of knowing where the six non-reporting trusts - many of whom have serious IT problems - would have appeared on the table; they are Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust, Derby Hospitals Foundation Trust, Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust, Walsall Healthcare Trust and the Whittington Hospital Trust.

Gooroo_Top_twenty

Congratulations to four providers for dropping off the table; they are Aspen - Holly House Hospital, which reduced its 92nd centile waits from 18.6 to 14.6 weeks; Lewisham and Greenwich Healthcare Trust, from 18.0 to 17.2, Moorfields Eye Hospital Foundation Trust, from 18.7 to 17.4; and Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust, from 18.0 to 17.6 weeks.

Data for May, which is the new favourite for the English waiting list topping 3 million, is due out at 9:30am on 10 July.

Rob Findlay is founder of Gooroo Ltd and a specialist in waiting time dynamics.