NHS wait times were revealed on National Nurses Day – the worst in the country

NHS waiting times are now at a record high across the country, according to the latest data released by NHS England. Millions of people are still waiting for treatment

Ambulances outside St Thomas' NHS Hospital, London
NHS waiting times have hit a record high and some areas of the country appear to have been badly affected

Record high waiting times are plaguing the NHS as people across the country wait for treatment, the highest since records began in August 2007.

By the end of March, 6.4 million people were waiting to start treatment, a number up from 6.2 million in February.

There is already a government plan to tackle the problems, but Health Secretary Sajid Javid has admitted they are unlikely to fall for another two years.

Despite this, the NHS claims progress has been made as waiting times have come down from two years.

Professor Stephen Powis, Medical Director of NHS England, stressed the importance of helping people in hospital when they are able.

He said: “There is no doubt that the NHS is still under pressure and the latest figures are yet another reminder of the vital importance of community and social care to help people in hospital get out of hospital when they are able to do so, not just because it’s better for them, but because it helps free up valuable NHS bed space.

Why are NHS wait times so long?

Health Minister Sajid Javid says the government hopes waiting times will finally come down


(Getty Images)

NHS waiting times are high due to a combination of staff shortages and a backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The number of people waiting longer than 12 hours in emergency departments also rose to 24,183, while the number of people waiting more than a year to start hospital treatment rose to 306,286 from 299,478 in February.

This means a total of 16,796 people in England were still awaiting routine treatment to start at the end of March and have waited two years, but this is a figure which is further down by 28% from February.

The government hopes to eliminate all two-year waiting periods by July.

Powis said: “Today’s figures show that our hardworking teams across the NHS are making good progress in tackling the accumulated backlog, with a record number of diagnostic tests and cancer screenings being carried out in March as part of the most ambitious catch-up plan in NHS history.

“We always knew the waiting list would initially continue to grow as more people who may have held back during the pandemic come in for treatment, but today’s data shows that the number of people waiting longer than two years is increasing has fallen for the second month in a row, and wait times of more than 18 months have fallen for the first time.”

Where are the worst areas for NHS wait times?

Some areas of the country have grim waiting times


(Getty Images)

The worst areas for NHS waits depend on the type of treatment a patient is waiting for, but areas include the South West, Midlands and East of England.


New reports from NHS England indicate the Midlands was the worst area for wait times for diagnoses.

The median wait time for the Midlands was 3.7 weeks, followed by East of England and South West at 3.6 weeks.

Data for the Midlands revealed some worrying statistics, with 109,946 patients waiting six weeks or more to be diagnosed by the end of March and the total number of patients waiting stood at 338,960.

According to the latest data on waiting times for diagnostics for March 2022, the most affected areas are as follows:

  • Midlands – 3.7 weeks
  • East England 3.6 weeks
  • Southwest – 3.6 weeks
  • Northwest – 3.0 weeks
  • North East and Yorkshire – 3.0 weeks
  • Southeast – 2.7 weeks
  • London – 2.4 weeks

The median waiting time for diagnosis across England was 3.1 weeks.

It should be emphasized that the waiting time data also depends on the type of test subjects, with 302,825 people waiting for an MRI scan by the end of March. This was an increase of 77,984 from 224,281 the previous year.

529,796 patients were waiting for a non-obstetric ultrasound and 193,707 for a CT scan.


Most people in the emergency room waited 12 hours or more from the decision to admit the patient until they were actually admitted, in eastern England.

The data collected is slightly skewed as some trusts do not record patients who wait this long.

At Blackpool Teaching Hospital, for example, 928 people had to wait over 12 hours.

The data is the average number of people who had to wait over 12 hours across the trusts in an area and are as follows:

  • East of England – 167
  • Northwest – 158
  • Southwest – 157
  • London-154
  • Midland – 124
  • North East and Yorkshire – 96
  • South East – 39 (peak of 690 at Sussex University Hospitals)

Ambulance response times

Patients in South West England have the longest waits for a Category 1 ambulance


Martyn Wheatley / i-Images)

Ambulance reactions are divided into different categories, and a Category 1 reaction refers to “an immediate response to a life-threatening condition such as cardiac or respiratory arrest”.

The area with the worst average response time for April 2022 was the Southwest with a value of 11 minutes and 45 seconds.

The average Category 1 response for England was nine minutes and two seconds and the full list is as follows:

  • Southwest – 11 minutes and 45 seconds
  • Isle of Wight – 10 minutes and 58 seconds
  • East of England – 10 minutes and 17 seconds
  • East Midlands – nine minutes and 44 seconds
  • Yorkshire – nine minutes and 35 seconds
  • South Central – nine minutes and 23 seconds
  • Southeast Coast – eight minutes and 32 seconds
  • Northwest – eight minutes and 31 seconds
  • West Midlands – eight minutes 16 seconds
  • Northeast – seven minutes and 16 seconds
  • London – six minutes and 40 seconds

Category 2 ambulance calls refer to “serious conditions such as stroke or chest pain that may require rapid assessment and/or urgent transport.”

The average response time across England was 51 minutes and 22 seconds, with the South West again being the worst, where patients had to wait an average of over 1 hour and 20 minutes for an ambulance.

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