NHS Surgery Delays
We looked into current in-patient surgery delays for nine common procedures at 52 of the biggest hospitals in England, to see where people are waiting the longest for essential treatment.
Where to expect the longest NHS surgery waiting times in England
Waiting for surgery can be very stressful and having a particularly long wait can make the experience even more nerve-wracking.
The Covid-19 pandemic put overwhelming pressure on the NHS, and it’s had a massive impact on treatment times, with reports from earlier this year suggesting that waiting list for all NHS services were already at their highest since August 2007.
In August 2021, there were an estimated 5.45 million people waiting for procedures, and around 300,000 have been unfortunately waiting for over a year. Now, new insight has shown that the number waiting for treatment has further increased to 5.6 million in England alone, and the enormous delays are forcing many to consider private healthcare.
With this in mind, we wanted to look into where in England people are waiting the longest for general surgery procedures to take place, following a GP referral.
We analysed the latest NHS England service reports for the most common in-patient surgery procedures at 52 of the biggest hospitals in the country1 and discovered that on average, 9/10 patients are facing a wait of up to 60 weeks for carpal tunnel release surgery, 33 weeks for gall bladder removal, 43 weeks for a hysterectomy, 58 weeks for hernia surgery, and 58 weeks for a hip or knee replacement.
Each year, roughly 120,000 hernia repair procedures take place in England, 115,000 hip replacements, 81,000 knee replacements, 76,000 gall bladders are removed and there are 50,000 tonsillectomies – according to data from the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Read on to find out more about out study.
Patients in Leicester, Liverpool, London and Birmingham are facing the longest waits
Across the UK, Leicester General Hospital, which has around 1,000 beds, currently has the longest potential wait – around 80 weeks for the most common procedures, although waiting times for gall bladder removal (56 weeks) and a hysterectomy (71 weeks) are currently lower. Even the most patient of patients would find these considerable delay troubling.
Leicester Royal has the second longest wait of 74.5 weeks on average for the nine common procedures analysed, with tonsillectomy patients in particular facing an enormous 81-week delay.
Liverpool’s Aintree University Hospital came in third, with a potential wait of 69.9 weeks for the surgeries included in our study. Many of those waiting for a hip or knee replacement, lumbar surgery or carpal tunnel release may expect a delay of up to 81 weeks though.
The England hospitals with the longest ‘up to’ waiting times from GP referral for nine common surgery procedures are*:
- Leicester General – 75.9 weeks / 17.5 months
- Leicester Royal – 75.4 weeks / 17.5 months
- Aintree University, Liverpool – 69.9 weeks / 16 months
- The Royal London – 67.9 weeks / 15.5 months
- Queen Elizabeth, Birmingham – 67.6 weeks / 15.5 months
- Addenbrooke’s, Cambridge – 66 weeks / 15 months
- Royal Devon & Exeter – 65.4 weeks / 15 months
- Royal Preston – 65 weeks / 15 months
- Leeds General Infirmary – 64.9 weeks / 15 months
- Hull General Infirmary – 63.9 weeks / 14.5 months
- North Manchester General – 62.7 weeks / 14 months
- Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital – 62.4 weeks / 14 months
- Derriford Hospital, Plymouth – 62.4 weeks / 14 months
- Royal Derby Hospital – 62.2 weeks /
- Countess of Chester Hospital – 60.7 weeks /
- Salford Royal – 60.4 weeks /
- Blackpool Victoria – 60.2 weeks /
- Bristol Royal Infirmary – 60.1 weeks /
- Nottingham University Hospitals – 58.9 weeks /
- Huddersfield Royal Infirmary – 58.6 weeks /
- Coventry University Hospital – 57.3 weeks /
- St James’ Leeds – 56 weeks /
- Royal Lancaster Infirmary – 55.8 weeks /
- James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough – 55.8 weeks
- Luton & Dunstable Hospital – 54.9 weeks /
- Royal Oldham, Manchester – 50.6 weeks /
- St Thomas’ London – 49.1 weeks /
- Bradford Royal Infirmary – 48.2 weeks /
- The York Hospital – 48.1 weeks /
- Royal United Hospital, Bath – 45.7 weeks
In our analysis, Rotherham, Barnsley and Preston’s Fulwood Hall Hospitals currently have the shortest waiting times for the nine procedures (30.9 weeks, 32.7 weeks, and 33.9 weeks respectively), alongside The Edgbaston in Birmingham (34 weeks) and the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital (34.1 weeks).
Bournemouth Hospital also appeared to have shorter-than-average waiting lists (23 weeks for gall bladder removal), although data is not currently available on the NHS service website for all the procedures we looked into.
Waiting times vary by procedure, with back surgery delays the longest
Waiting times for each procedure do of course vary significantly by location. For example, patients may be waiting 82 weeks for hernia repair surgery at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital but only 18 weeks at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Hospital.
This insight reveals the extent of the healthcare lottery across the country, but also offers hope for some patients that treatment could be secured elsewhere if they’re prepared to do some research and travel elsewhere.
Many may find it useful to know what the current average ‘up to’ waiting times look like, so they can determine if their delay is above or below what they may expect.
The current ‘up to’ surgery waiting times from GP referral for 9/10 patients (England average*) per procedure are:
- Lumbar (lower back) surgery – 60.6 weeks / 14 months
- Carpal tunnel release surgery – 59.7 weeks / 13.5 months
- Hip or knee replacement surgery – 57.7 weeks / 13 months
- Hernia (inguinal) surgery – 57.5 weeks / 13 months
- Varicose vein surgery – 57.5 weeks / 13 months
- General surgery – 56.3 weeks / 12.5 months
- Tonsillectomy (ear/nose/throat) – 48.3 weeks / 11 months
- Hysterectomy – 42.8 weeks / 10 months
- Gall bladder removal surgery (gastrointestinal) – 32.9 weeks / 7.5 months
|Procedure||Hospital||Longest Wait||England Average|
|Carpal tunnel release||Norfolk & Norwich University||93 weeks||59.7 weeks|
|Gall bladder removal||Bristol Royal Infirmary||67 weeks||32.9 weeks|
|Hysterectomy||Norfolk & Norwich University||79 weeks||42.8 weeks|
|Hernia (inguinal)||Birmingham Queen Elizabeth||82 weeks||57.5 weeks|
|Lumbar (lower back)||Leicester Royal||80 weeks||60.6 weeks|
|Varicose vein stripping||Birmingham Queen Elizabeth||82 weeks||57.5 weeks|
|General surgery||Birmingham Queen Elizabeth||82 weeks||56.3 weeks|
|Hip or knee replacement||Bristol Royal Infirmary||88 weeks||57.7 weeks|
|Tonsillectomy||Oxford John Radcliffe||91 weeks||48.3 weeks|
|Procedure||Hospital||Longest Wait||England Average|
|Carpal tunnel release||St George’s London||29 weeks||59.7 weeks|
|Gall bladder removal||Barnsley Hospital||14 weeks||32.9 weeks|
|Hysterectomy||Barnsley Hospital||19 weeks||42.8 weeks|
|Hernia (inguinal)||Royal Victoria Newcastle||18 weeks||57.5 weeks|
|Lumbar (lower back)||St George’s London||29 weeks||60.6 weeks|
|Varicose vein stripping||Royal Victoria Newcastle||18 weeks||57.5 weeks|
|General surgery||Norfolk & Norwich University & Royal Victoria Newcastle||18 weeks||56.3 weeks|
|Hip or knee replacement||Norfolk & Norwich University||17 weeks||57.7 weeks|
|Tonsillectomy||Barnsley Hospital||14 weeks||48.3 weeks|
Our advice for those facing lengthy delays
If you are currently awaiting non-urgent surgery following a GP referral, then you may not be aware that you do have a legal right to choose which hospital it takes place at. It may be worthwhile you doing some research into where the shortest waiting lists are for your surgery type via the NHS service dashboard, and once you’ve decided on a hospital, you can book in through the NHS e-Referral Service. This may enable you to book in for your surgery somewhere else, where the delay is shorter.
With the higher-than-normal volume of patients undergoing medical diagnosis, and the pressure on health professional to deliver a speedy service to get through the backlog, unfortunately some patients won’t receive the treatment they should.
Unfortunately, thousands of clinical negligence cases occur each year. While this isn’t strictly applicable to surgery backlogs, bringing cases of medical negligence to light is pivotal in raising the standards across all professional medical services and facilities.
Here are just a few of the incidents that can result in a claim against medical staff:
- A diagnosis being incorrect or unduly delayed
- Treatment not being adequate or suitable
- Symptoms ignored
- A medical device or item not functioning as it should
- An operation or procedure being carried out incorrectly
If you think you have been the victim of medical negligence and want to talk about the possibility of making a claim, you can make an enquiry online or get in touch with our expert team of clinical negligence solicitors.
Further information can also be found on our medical negligence webpage.
Our research methodology & sources
NHS data was collected from NHS UK between 22nd and 28th September 2021. Data is subject to change over time.
Nine common surgery procedures were assessed. This list was taken from insight gathered from:
The data reflects the time from GP referral to treatment in weeks. The weeks noted are based on an ‘up to X’ figure for 9/10 patients.
*Based on analysis of surgery waiting times in 52 hospitals across 39 UK cities
We’re here to help with your surgical error claim
If you or someone you know has been affected by a surgical error, get in contact with our team of specialist medical negligence solicitors. We are here to listen to you and provide you with the care and advice you need.