NHS waiting lists could rise to 14 million in England

Robotic surgery cutting some waiting lists as new report predicts huge rise

9th August 2021 about a 2 minute read
"Robotic surgery will play a pivotal role in reducing patient waits for surgery as we go forward.” Professor Stephen Powis, medical director, NHS England

As one new report suggests up to 14 million people could be on NHS waiting lists in England by next autumn, news is spreading that an increased investment in robotic surgery by hospitals during the pandemic has cut waiting lists for some procedures.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report says five million people are waiting to start treatment in England, the highest since records began in 2007, with a sharp increase in the number waiting more than a year.

But the authors say, taking a step back, the growth in waiting lists until now has actually been remarkably small given the incredible disruption to the NHS from Covid-19.

They add: “Our scenarios show that, in the longer run, whether or not waiting lists remain high will ultimately be determined by what capacity the NHS can achieve in the coming years.”

The government says it has invested £1bn this year to reduce waiting lists.  And last month NHS Medical Director, Professor Stephen Powis, welcomed figures that showed “for the first time this year, a reduction in the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment.”

Prof. Powis has been quoted in The Sunday Times: “This success can be attributed in part to the remarkable step change we have seen in the use of robotic surgery within the NHS, which alongside other innovations adopted by staff have propelled us much further along in our Covid recovery than would have been possible before.”

He added: “Robotic surgery will play a pivotal role in reducing patient waits for surgery as we go forward.”

Hospitals in London, Liverpool, Oxford, Stevenage, Coventry and Norwich are among those to have significantly increased robotic surgery during the last year because minimally invasive surgery allows patients to recover more quickly than traditional open surgery.

Use of robots to treat prostate cancer surgery has reduced waiting times which rose from four weeks to four months during the pandemic to six weeks in one hospital.

The Royal Marsden was the first hospital in England to introduce the da Vinci robotic surgical systems in January 2007 which revolutionised treatment for cancer patients.

In June NHS Scotland announced it had invested £20 million in ten surgical robots.

Future Care Capital has reported how cutting-edge machine learning tools can recommend therapies for breast cancer patients more reliably than current methods.