You may have heard murmurs about GP and hospital appointment waiting times in recent years. It’s no secret that the demand for healthcare services far outweighs the supply across the country, but just how bad are these waiting times in reality, and what impact do they have on how quickly we can receive the treatment we need?
To determine the severity of these waiting times in the healthcare sector, we at Click Pharmacy have compiled data from the past 3 years, taken directly from official sources in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
We did this to explore not only how lengthy the average waiting times are for each region but also to find out which departments were most affected by long waiting times.
Revealing the severity of GP waiting times
Fortunately, our data revealed that GP appointments across England are often available on the same day or within a week. 15/03/2023, 21:06 Page 1 of 7 same day or within a week.
Between January 2020 and January 2023, around 66% of total GP appointments were face-toface with a doctor, allowing patients to be more thoroughly examined. An average of 51% of patients were seen by their GP the same day they phoned for an appointment, whilst 32% were seen within 1-7 days of calling to book an appointment.
Between January and December 2022, there were over 300 million doctor’s appointments attended out of a total of 328,450 million appointments made. Throughout 2022, 48% of appointments were on the same day as calling, with 31% taking place within the span of a week.
However, 13% took place within 8-14 days, with 7% having to wait over 2 weeks for an appointment. As of January 2023, these figures were almost identical, with 12.5% of appointments requiring an 8-14 day wait.
Whilst this is more optimistic than we might think when compared to previous years, it does show some concerning signs.
Between January and December 2020, 274,694 million GP appointments were made, with 247,987 million attended. Interestingly, despite being the height of the pandemic, GP waiting times actually performed better in 2020 compared to 2022. An average of 55% of doctor’s appointments made in 2020 were for the same day, with just 11% requiring an 8-14 day waiting time.
The impact on hospital appointments
Sadly, it isn’t just GP surgeries that are struggling with lengthy wait times for patients. Hospitals have also been subject to weeks-long waiting periods for people to receive treatment, go for surgery, and even just be examined in some cases. We wanted to know which hospital departments and treatment types had the worst wait times.
We wanted to know which hospital departments and treatment types had the worst wait times. Unfortunately, unlike the GP appointments, there is little positive to report.
In terms of regions, using data from December 2022, the North West saw some of the lowest waiting times in the country – with Lancashire, South Cumbria, and Manchester all recording a 5-week wait. Outside of the North West, Cornwall and Norfolk also saw 5-week waiting times for hospital appointments.
The same sadly couldn’t be said across the entirety of the East of England, with Cambridgeshire seeing the longest waiting times in the country – 32 weeks. Derbyshire and Birmingham in the Midlands were other hard-hitters for wait times, with patients in Derbyshire waiting 26 weeks for an appointment, whilst those living in Birmingham had to wait 24 weeks.
Additionally, Liverpool saw patients waiting 22 weeks for appointments in December 2022, alongside Swansea in Wales.
|Region (for England)||Latest waiting time (weeks)|
Ears, Nose and Throat specialists (ENT)
The worst-affected department was the Ear, Nose and Throat specialists (ENT), recording a staggering 21-week national average waiting time in the latest available data.
This was by far the most significant in Wales, which saw a shocking 34-week wait for an ENT appointment in December of 2022. Whilst this may be shocking enough on its own, the Welsh healthcare trusts have actually seen wait times decrease by 12% over the past 12 months, having initially recorded a 35% increase in waiting times since 2020. At its peak in JanuaryFebruary 2021, wait times for ENT specialists in Wales were over 46 weeks.
In comparison, England recorded a 16-week waiting time in December 2022 for this department, having seen waiting times increase by 16% over the past 12 months. Similarly, Northern Ireland also saw 16-week wait times for ENT appointments in December 2022, a decrease of 16% across the past 12 months.
Scotland recorded waiting times of 19 weeks for this appointment type as of December 2022, making it the second-highest region for waiting times to see an ENT specialist.
Trauma and Orthopaedics
Trauma and Orthopaedics also sadly saw lengthy waiting times, recording a national average of 21 weeks – according to data from December 2022.
Similarly, it was Wales that came out worse again, with patients having to wait 35 weeks for an appointment in December 2022. Once again, this may seem shocking, but these waiting times are actually an improvement of 17% across 12 months.
Scotland recorded the second-highest waiting time for this department, with 19 weeks in December 2022. This is an increase of 12% across the past 12 months, indicating that Scottish 15/03/2023, 21:06 Page 3 of 7 December 2022. This is an increase of 12% across the past 12 months, indicating that Scottish wait times may soon worsen. Northern Ireland, in contrast, recorded a 12-week wait period in December 2022, making it the best region to attend an appointment of this type.
In England, the wait time for this appointment type in December 2022 was 16 weeks, which has increased by 6% over the past 12 months.
The Oral Surgery department saw an average national wait time of 20 weeks, according to the most recent data.
In Wales, patients had to wait 29 weeks for an oral surgery appointment in December 2022, a decrease of 19% across the past 12 months. At its peak, the wait time in Wales for this appointment type was 50 weeks in February 2021.
Northern Ireland saw a 6% decrease in waiting times for this appointment type within the past 12 months, with patients waiting 19 weeks in December 2022 compared to 20 weeks in December 2021. Meanwhile, both Scotland and England each recorded 16-week waiting times for their patients in December 2022.
Patients waiting for oral surgery are likely to be in some deal of pain and discomfort, making these wait times significantly worse on their condition.
Urology recorded a national average waiting time of 19 weeks in December 2022.
Regionally, England saw patients wait 12 weeks for a Urology appointment in December 2022, an increase of 6% in the past 12 months. In contrast, however, Scotland’s most recent data – as of December 2022 – found that patients were waiting over 22 weeks for Urology appointments, an increase of 18% in 12 months.
Northern Ireland recorded the lowest wait times for this appointment type, with patients in December 2022 waiting 8 weeks for an appointment. This is a significant improvement of 35% across 12 months. Sadly, it was Wales once again that recorded the longest wait times for Urology appointments, with patients waiting 32 weeks to be seen by Urologists in December 2022.
These lengthy waits can be an uncomfortable experience for patients as they eagerly await treatment for often-chronic conditions centralised in the urinary system, such as urinary-tract diseases and infections, as well as kidney stones.
Similarly, general surgeries also had a 19-week national average wait time in the latest data.
In Wales, patients waited 28 weeks for surgery appointments – an increase of 6% across 12 months. Meanwhile, patients in Northern Ireland could expect a wait time of 17 weeks in December 2022 – a minor increase of just 1% in 12 months.
Additionally, England and Scotland both saw 16-week wait times for surgery appointments in December 2022.
Surgeries in this category may include quality-of-life procedures, such as knee and hip 15/03/2023, 21:06 Page 4 of 7 Surgeries in this category may include quality-of-life procedures, such as knee and hip replacements. These lengthy waiting times can have substantial impacts on the mental health of patients awaiting surgery.
Unfortunately, the female-health specific field of gynaecology also took significant hits when it came to appointment waiting times, recording a national average of 18 weeks in December 2022.
In England, this wait time was 15 weeks in December 2022, a staggering 29% increase over the past 12 months and 46% increase since 2020. In February of 2020, for comparison, wait times for gynaecology appointments in England were just 7 weeks. Similarly, Northern Ireland recorded a 15-week wait time for gynaecology in December 2022, a 10% increase across 12 months.
Scotland sadly fared even worse, seeing patients wait 19 weeks in December 2022 for gynaecology appointments – a 20% increase across the past 12 months. Once again, however, it was Wales with the longest wait times – 25 weeks in December 2022, an improvement of 7% in 12 months.
Womens’ health, in general, is still lagging behind other medical professions, with many women feeling uncomfortable with addressing their medical concerns with doctors, so it’s extremely disappointing to see that those in need of appointments are facing such lengthy waiting periods.
Departments with the lowest wait times
Of course, it wasn’t entirely negative. Some departments saw significantly lower wait times compared to the rest, with Paediatrics thankfully having the lowest wait time out of all departments – a national average of 9 weeks (as of December 2022).
This was followed by Chemical Pathology, recording a 9-week wait time for patients – alongside Cardiothoracic Surgery, with a 10-week wait period. Surprisingly, appointments for Cardiology appointments also had a fairly lengthy wait time, with patients in December 2022 having to wait over 11 weeks.
Whilst these times are all significantly less than other departments, it’s still concerning to see that departments treating such serious conditions have weeks-long waiting times for appointments.
|Treatment type||Latest waiting time (weeks)|
|Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT)||21.4|
|Trauma and Orthopaedic||20.8|
Overall, our research into waiting times has revealed some concerning data surrounding the departments that have the longest waiting times. Of course, with increased demand, there is more pressure placed on the supply, so it’s expected to see some level of waiting involved.
However, many of the departments with lengthy waiting times specialised in serious areas, such as Ears, Nose and Throat (ENT) and Urology. If patients are left suffering from conditions for too long, these can become chronic or can increase in severity, requiring more drastic treatment.
This research has provided an invaluable glimpse into the strain that the public health services across the UK are currently under and the impact this is having on patients’ ease of access to appointments – whether they are with general practitioners (GPs) or specialists in a hospital setting.
If you are in need of medical advice or require any further information regarding prescription treatment, please look no further than us at Click Pharmacy. We are always available to provide you with help sourcing prescriptions at your local pharmacies.
Data on median waiting times was collected from official statistics sources in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Across all countries, median wait times represent the amount of time, in weeks, for a consultant-led referral to treatment that at least 50% of patients are waiting before receiving treatment. These estimates are all based using "incomplete pathways" data, i.e. data that includes patients who are waiting to start treatment at the end of a given month.
For England, Scotland, and Wales, median waiting times in weeks were taken directly from the available data, while for Northern Ireland, median times were computed from wait distribution by number of weeks using median calculation for grouped data. Estimates for England only include waiting times for treatment within the NHS Trust system and exclude private (aka "independent sector") providers.
For statistics on GP visits, only NHS England estimates were used to show the change in the Pre-sign o+: waiting time… 15/03/2023, 21:06 Page 6 of 7 For statistics on GP visits, only NHS England estimates were used to show the change in the % of appointments made and attended on the same day, within a week, two weeks, or longer – as well as the % of appointments attended face-to-face, rather than over the phone/online.
Data was gathered in Feb-Mar 2023