In July we reported the ongoing growth of cardiac waiting lists based on figures released by NHS England. As is likely anticipated by anyone involved in healthcare, this troubling trend has continued, with a further rise to record levels. As of the end of July 2023, the number of people on cardiac waiting lists is 402,793 compared with 392,698 at the end of March. This represents a 73% increase from the waiting list size in February 2020, immediately prior to the start of the covid pandemic, a date increasingly used to benchmark the deterioration of waiting lists.
The full NHS England data set is publicly available, but in summary waiting lists are growing and the NHS is ever further from meeting its target times for investigation and treatment. In our last report of the waiting list figures we highlighted the growing ambulance response times for category 2 calls (including heart attacks) despite a cynical adjustment of the target from 18 minutes to a year-long average of 30 minutes. This appears to have stabilised though remains over target at 32 minutes in both July and August.
With these newly released figures the NHS runs the risk of this pattern becoming normalised, with limited impetus to resolve the core issues. Current government approaches include introducing minimum service level legislation.
In the next edition of this mini-series we hope to be able to report falling cardiac waiting lists but suspect it will not be long until we are reporting half a million individuals waiting.