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NHS waiting list climbs to 7.57 million in April

According to the figures for April 2024, NHS waiting lists have increased by 33,000, with 7.57 million people now waiting for NHS treatment. More than 300,000 patients have been waiting for treatment for over a year, and almost 300 patients have been waiting for more than 2 years.

Long waiting lists have been a main concern for NHS patients since the coronavirus pandemic, with many people now choosing to pay for private treatment to skip long NHS queues. Private health insurance has risen in popularity as well, with these policies being a helpful option to make the cost of private care more affordable.

In this article, our health insurance experts look at why NHS waiting lists are rising and the latest figures for NHS waiting times in the UK. We also explore how private health insurance can help to reduce the waiting times for treatment if you are diagnosed with any new medical issues.

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60-Second Summary – NHS waiting list climbs to 7.57 million in April

The NHS waiting list increased by 33,000 in April 2024, reaching a total of 7.57 million people. This number continues to increase, and many consumers are now opting to buy private health insurance to avoid long NHS queues for diagnosis and treatment.

  • The average waiting time to start NHS medical treatment is around 13.9 weeks, but thousands of patients are waiting much longer than this. Just over 5,000 patients have waited more than 78 weeks for treatment.
  • Before the pandemic, less than 2,000 NHS patients waited for longer than 1 year to begin medical treatment following a diagnosis.
  • Less than half of NHS patients will be seen for treatment within the target ‘maximum’ waiting time of 18 weeks.
  • Private health insurance can make it quicker and easier to receive medical treatment, with a wide range private hospitals and treatment centres to choose from.

As of the most recent reports, 7,572,563 NHS patients are waiting to start the course of treatment that they need. This has increased by 33,000 from the 7,538,800 patients that were waiting for treatment in March 2024.

The main NHS figures that have been published show that:

  • 302,589 NHS patients have been waiting for more than a year for treatment.
  • 50,397 NHS patients have been waiting for more than 65 weeks for treatment.
  • 5,013 NHS patients have been waiting for more than 78 weeks for treatment.
  • 275 NHS patients have been waiting for more than 2 years for treatment.
  • 58.3% of NHS patients have been waiting for at least 18 weeks for their treatment. 18 weeks is the current ‘maximum waiting time’ that is the target for NHS treatment.
  • 1,757,699 new referral to treatment (RTT) pathways were started, with only 310,373 treatment pathways being completed in April.
  • The average waiting time to start NHS treatment was around 13.9 weeks as of the end of April 2024, with some patients waiting up to 44.8 weeks.
  • The waiting list for NHS hospital treatment has almost tripled over the last 10 years.
  • Before the Covid-19 pandemic, less than 2,000 patients would wait longer than 1 year for NHS medical treatments to begin.
  • Over 1 in 10 patients will wait for more than 12 hours in A&E before being treated (far longer than the target of a 4-hour maximum waiting time)

There is a combination of factors that have caused NHS waiting times to increase, with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic being the main cause. Many doctors and medical professionals left the profession following the pandemic, leading to a shortage of available doctors for NHS patients.

Millions of treatments were delayed during the pandemic, and the NHS has been unable to catch up with the backlog of patients while also referring new patients for treatment.

The NHS aims to ensure that all patients are seen within 18 weeks of being referred for treatment, but 100,000,000’s of people are waiting far longer than this. There have been numerous reports about this problem over the last year, including this one from Channel 4 News back in August 2023.

NHS England waiting lists hit record high

This is an ongoing issue, as NHS waiting lists continue to grow despite repeated attempts by the government to address this problem over the last 2 years.

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Last year, the UK government announced some measures to try and combat long NHS waiting times. Based on this, patients should now be offered a minimum choice of 5 providers for their treatment to try and improve patient flow.

Many UK residents have now chosen to buy policies like private health insurance, to give them more control over when and where they receive their medical care. It’s often much quicker to access private care, and health insurance can cut the cost down significantly.

Private health insurance can also:

  • Provide access to online GP services from the comfort of your own home.
  • Offer discounts for gyms, smartwatches, cinema tickets for ODEON and Vue, and more.
  • Support your entire family’s health and well-being with online services.
  • Provide the option to add on extra benefits like dental or optical care.
  • Provides a range of policy options including individual, couples, and family health insurance plans.

If you are interested in private health insurance but aren’t sure where to start, you can call our health insurance experts on 0800 009 6559 or CLICK HERE for free advice.

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What is the average cost of health insurance UK?

One of the top questions that people ask about health insurance is, ‘how much does it cost on average per month?’. According to recent research taken in 2023, the average cost of a health insurance is £86 per month for a standard personal protection policy. Health insurance policies can vary dramatically based on your age and the type of cover that you need, as well as which insurance provider you choose.

Most core health insurance policies will provide a similar level of protection and coverage for private medical treatments. You can tailor your health insurance policy to suit your needs and your budget by changing the benefits and levels of cover that you receive.

Is health insurance worth it?

Health insurance is the same as most other personal protection policies that you can buy, it is down to your own personal preference and attitude to risk. The other major issue is whether you can afford to pay for health insurance every month because it can be expensive.

If you ever need to claim on your health insurance policy then the benefits can be life changing and even lifesaving. The medical treatments and care that is provided by the NHS in the UK is among the best in the world, especially for chronic illness. Unfortunately, it is a well-known fact that the NHS is struggling to meet demand and that the levels of private medical treatment are generally far superior to public health treatments.

Example: If you needed knee surgery then you would have to wait for months or even years on the NHS, whereas private health insurance will give you access to better treatment, leading specialists, and within weeks usually. Rehabilitation and therapies cover that are also provided by most health insurance policies can be invaluable, especially if you are self-employed for example.

Is private health insurance better than the NHS?

Currently, the biggest issue with the NHS is the waiting times for any consultations and access to treatments, because of how stretched its resources are. The NHS provides some of the best care in the world for chronic illnesses and diseases, such as diabetes, MS, epilepsy, and asthma.

Health insurance is designed to complement and support the treatment that you can receive on the National Health Service, as well as giving you access to specialists for other medical issues such as musculoskeletal issues and cancer treatment, which are also the top reasons for claims on health insurance cover.

The main issues with NHS treatment currently and reasons for people taking out health insurance:

  • Long waiting lists for consultations, results and treatment
  • Overcrowded hospitals
  • Lack of beds
  • Shortages of NHS nurses and doctors
  • Some treatments not available (especially cancer treatments)
  • Specialists only available on private health insurance
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What is the best health insurance UK?

There are lots of different policy options when considering health insurance as well as your choice of several main insurance providers. The other consideration is whether you don’t take out health insurance and opt for receiving treatment on the NHS or paying for treatment yourself as and when you need it.

We’re constantly reviewing the top health insurance companies in the UK to find out which provide the best service, value, products and treatments. Based on our most recent reviews we suggest the following as the best health insurance UK 2023:

  1. Aviva Healthcare Solutions (Trustpilot score: 4.1 out of 5.0)
  2. BUPA Health Insurance (Trustpilot score: 4.0 out of 5.0)
  3. Vitality Personal Healthcare (Trustpilot score: 3.9 out of 5.0)
  4. Exeter Health+ (Trustpilot score: 4.4 out of 5.0)
  5. AXA PPP (Trustpilot score: 4.1 out of 5.0)
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