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Editorial Thursday 13 October 2011: Waiting numbers show no dramatic deterioration

The latest DH data on referral to treatment waiting times brings out several interesting themes, and I am grateful to Dr Rob Findlay of NHSGooroo for his analysis.

Rob knows whereof he speaks. All numbers compare August 2011 with July 2011 – so it is month-on-month change during the summer months.

The total incomplete pathways waiting list (the number of patients still waiting for treatment at the end of each month) rose slightly, from 2,612,355 to 2,614,505.

The number on the waiting list over 18 weeks fell slightly, from 247,423 to 245678.

As if by magic, there was perfect stasis at 19,939 for the number on the waiting list over 52 weeks. The number on the waiting list over 26 weeks rose from 104,285 to 108,230.

The 95th centile of incomplete pathways rose from 23.8 to 24.2.

Over the past year (August 2010-August 2011), the waiting list came down 1.5%; over-18 week waiters came down 6.8%, over-26 week waiters came down 9.2%, and over-52 week waiters came down 4.4%.

Over 1,000 patients have been on the waiting list for over a year at: St Georges and Kingston NHS hospital trusts, as known from last month’s data. There are some new arrivals in this category: Guy's & St Thomas's, Royal United Hospital Bath, Sheffield and South London.

68% of Trusts have 90% of waiting list below 18 weeks - this is down from 71% in July, and from 69% in Aug 2010.

The total number waiting is up 7.1% in 6 months, and 4.2% since May 2010’s general election.

The number on the waiting list over 18 weeks is up 12.9% since the lection; and the number on list over 52 weeks up 34% in last 6 months.

Findlay concludes, “the NHS in England fended off its waiting time pressures in August, giving much-needed breathing space for winter”.