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Political party promises to cut NHS waiting lists don’t stand a chance without significant investment in NHS buildings and surgical facilities

13 Jun 2024

  • Waiting list for planned hospital treatment in England rises to 7.57 million 
  • Over 300,000 patients were waiting more than a year for treatment in April 2024
  • Total waiting list has risen by more than 150,000 over the last year

Surgeons are calling on the next Government to commit to a £6.4 billion annual funding increase to upgrade NHS facilities to reduce NHS waiting lists to pre-pandemic level. The call comes as NHS performance data published today shows the waiting list for consultant-led hospital treatment in England rose to 7,572,563.


Some patients are on multiple pathways. The number of unique patients is estimated to be around 6.3 million, according to NHS England. The latest data also reveals that waits of over a year stood at over 302,589 in April 2024. The total waiting list has increased by more than 150,000 since the same time last year, when the list stood at 7,415,352 (April 2023). 


Responding to the latest figures, Professor Vivien Lees, Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said:


“The scale of the challenge and rising demand from an ageing population means the NHS won't stand a chance of cutting waiting times without significant additional investment. Right now, we have patients dying while they wait, or waiting worried and in pain for months on end, hoping they might get a date for often life changing or life-saving surgery before they get any worse.


“The next UK Government must commit to increased capital investment of at least £6.4 billion annually, to upgrade NHS buildings and surgical facilities, alongside increasing the surgical and medical workforce.”


The Royal College of Surgeons of England is also calling on the next UK Government to make the NHS a more attractive place to work by introducing a wellbeing package to support the morale of our workforce. The call is one of six recommendations, made in the College’s election manifesto, to support and strengthen the surgical workforce and ultimately improve patient care.


Professor Lees added:


“Promises from political parties to meet NHS waiting time standards by the end of the next Parliament hinge on having a strong workforce. With record vacancies, and staff morale in a pretty bad place, this will be difficult.


“More weekend and evening working may be part of the solution to cutting waits, but with 61% of the surgical workforce already saying they are burnt out and stressed, these initiatives will only take us so far. 


“If the NHS is to attract and retain the staff it needs to get waiting times back to even pre-pandemic levels, the next UK Government must introduce a wellbeing package to improve their physical and cultural workplace environments and offer greater flexible working options.”




Notes to editors:

  1. NHS England’s latest consultant-led referral to treatment waiting times data is available here:
  2. RCS England’s election manifesto, “Surgical solutions for the next UK Government”, is available to read here:
  3. The NHS Confederation has also identified the need for increased investment in capital to support greater productivity, and has estimated the NHS requires £6.4 billion annual capital funding.
  4. 61% of respondents to RCS England’s 2023 surgical workforce census cited burnout and stress as a major challenge – due to excessive workloads. Full surgical workforce data is available here:
  5. The Royal College of Surgeons of England provides world-class education, assessment, and development to 30,000 surgeons, dental professionals, and members of the wider surgical and dental care teams, at all stages of their careers. Our vision is to see excellent surgical care for everyone. We do this by setting professional standards, facilitating research and championing the best outcomes for patients.   
  6. For more information, please contact the RCS England press office: telephone: 020 7869 6054/6053; email:; out-of-hours media enquiries: 0207 869 6056.




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