NEARLY a third more patients are waiting for surgery in the worst hit areas of England, a report shows.
NHS waiting lists are expected to peak at 7.3million this month, causing a disproportionate effect in some parts of the country, according to analysis by analytics firm LCP.
The analysis broke the country down into the areas with the most “unmet need” — patients either officially on a waiting list or an estimated figure for those who have yet to come forward for treatment because of the Covid pandemic.
Four of the six worst affected integrated care boards were in the North West and Midlands as of November 2022.
They were NHS Black Country (25,137 per 100,000 people), NHS Cheshire and Merseyside (24,946), NHS Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent (23,765) and NHS Greater Manchester (23,447).
The other two were NHS North West London (26,798) and NHS Sussex (25,011), the analysis showed.
Robert King, of LCP, said: “The NHS needs to find innovative ways to strengthen capacity and address inequities.
“Alongside this, it is clear that the East of England, Midlands and areas in the North West are being left further behind.
“Policymakers can help move the needle by proportionately targeting resources and support to areas with the greatest need.”
NHS waiting lists hit an all-time high of 7.2million in January, health service data revealed last week.
Nearly half of cancer patients did not start treatment within two months of a referral for the first time since records began.
Health bosses warned the three-day junior doctors strike — which started today — would only pile yet more pressure on the struggling service.
LCP’s analysis shows the East of England had the highest proportion of people still on a waiting list at 12,918 per 100,00.
In comparison, the South East had the fewest, at 10,022 per 100,000.
The South East also saw the largest reduction in 18-month waits, dropping 51 per cent since the Elective Recovery Programme was introduced in February last year.
The smallest decrease was in the Midlands, which has seen only a 20 per cent reduction so far.
Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, head of health analytics at LCP, said: “The most difficult milestones lie ahead when it comes to tackling the waiting list.
“It’s significant that more people are waiting longer than 18 weeks as it is mandated that this should be the maximum waiting time for non-urgent, consultant-led treatments.
“Whilst the NHS has done well in addressing the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of exceptionally long waiters, much more needs to be done to improve overall NHS capacity and ensure this is equitable across conditions and geography.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “NHS staff across the country have worked incredibly hard to bring down the longest waits for care in line with our plans to recover services since the pandemic, with 18 month waits down by almost three quarters since its peak in September 2021.
“The NHS is working with trusts right across the country, offering additional support to the areas that face the biggest challenges and making the most of measures like mutual aid between hospitals to ensure waiting times across the country are continuing to come down – for example the longest waits in Liverpool and Birmingham trusts are down two-fifths since January alone.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are working tirelessly to ensure the NHS has the support needed to deal with pressures following the pandemic and a difficult winter, backed by up to £14.1 billion for health and social care over the next two years.
“The NHS has virtually eliminated waits of more than two years for treatment, while 18-month waits have been cut by over 63% since the peak in September 2021, including waits for trauma and orthopaedics, which have fallen by over 70%,
“Ninety-four new community diagnostic centres are currently operational which have delivered over 3 million tests, checks and scans, since July 2021 – supporting patients to be diagnosed and access treatment more quickly.”