Record NHS waiting lists – but deaths data deemed “misleading”

Nearly 500 people died in Rotherham last year while on NHS waiting lists, according to the latest data – but the figures have been branded “misleading” at both a local and national level.

Freedom of information requests by the Labour party revealed 489 people died while on a waiting list at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust as patients face record waiting times.

The NHS constitution states patients should not wait more than 18 weeks for treatment, but almost half in England today wait longer to receive healthcare.

In Rotherham, 97 people died having waited for treatment longer than 18 weeks.

A record 7.6 million people are waiting for treatment in England and there are currently 30,030 patients on the waiting list at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.

data shows around 121,000 people died across England last year while waiting for NHS care, double the number of people in 2017/18, when the figure stood at around 60,000 .

Jake Richards, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Rother Valley, said: “Record numbers of people are spending their final months in pain and agony, waiting for treatment that never arrives.

“The basic promise of the NHS – that it will be there for us when we need it – has been broken.

“The longer the Conservatives are in office, the longer patients will wait.”

But the figures were deemed “misleading” by Rotherham Hospital as well as the government, saying it would be “wrong” to suggest a link between waiting list times and deaths.

A spokesperson for Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our waiting list increased during the pandemic and we are working hard to reduce it again.

“We are sorry that patients are waiting longer than before but it would be misleading to suggest that deaths are related to being on a waiting list.

“Our review indicates that the vast majority of those who died, died with an illness unrelated to the care they were waiting for and around three quarters were not waiting for procedures.

“Many were being seen in an outpatient setting and had received an initial appointment or diagnostic test.

“With all NHS waiting lists, patients are prioritised for treatment according to clinical need, with those needing urgent or cancer treatment receiving care as quickly as possible.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “These findings are misleading.

“This data is based upon a small sample size and it’s wrong to suggest this reflects the picture across the Health Service.

“Figures should not be compared year on year, as there are more people on waiting lists overall now because of the pandemic.

“Cutting waiting lists is one of this government’s top five priorities and, despite pressures from industrial action affecting patient care, we have virtually eliminated 18-month waits and are taking immediate action to bring down waits of over a year.“We are going further to use the independent sector so patients can be treated more quickly – there are currently 114 open community diagnostic centres and 93 surgical hubs helping to deliver thousands more checks, scans and operations.”