EHS-COVID (68) Q1 How has COVID-19 affected the delivery of essential health services? (10) Impact on elective care in England

20 November, 2020


Elective care in England

Assessing the impact of COVID-19 and where next

11 November 2020

- While the pandemic’s full impact on access to elective care in England is still emerging, this long read uses routine data on 18-week waiting times for consultant-led elective care to look at what we know so far.

- Before the pandemic, meeting the 18-week standard would have required the NHS to treat an additional 500,000 patients a year for the next 4 years - an unprecedennted increase in activity, which looked unrealistic before COVID-19 and looks even harder now.

- The number of people waiting for consultant-led elective care was 4.2 million in August 2020, around 196,000 less than at the end of 2019 (4.4 million). But this is only the case because the 32% reduction in the number of elective care pathways completed was exceeded by the 34% reduction in the number of new pathways being started.

- From January to August 2020, the specialties with the greatest reductions in new pathways were oral surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, and ophthalmology (42%, 42% and 40% lower respectively than in the same period in 2019).


HIFA profile: Richard Fitton is a retired family doctor - GP, British Medical Association. Professional interests: Health literacy, patient partnership of trust and implementation of healthcare with professionals, family and public involvement in the prevention of modern lifestyle diseases, patients using access to professional records to overcome confidentiality barriers to care, patients as part of the policing of the use of their patient data

Email address: richardpeterfitton7 AT