Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Data Briefing

Waiting times compared across the four UK nations

BMJ 2019; 367 doi: (Published 07 November 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;367:l6237
  1. John Appleby, director of research and chief economist
  1. Nuffield Trust, London, UK
  1. john.appleby{at}

Northern Ireland’s target for elective referrals is furthest from being met, finds John Appleby

It can be easy to forget quite how many NHS patients used to wait a long time for hospital care. At the turn of the century more than 48 000 patients in England were still waiting longer than a year to be admitted as an inpatient, and more than 132 000 were still waiting after six months for their first outpatient appointment.1

This June, however, just over 1000 patients had been waiting longer than a year across all outpatient and inpatient pathways in England.2 And much progress has been made in reducing waiting times in other areas: diagnostics, emergency care, and cancer services, for example. The tactics used in the English NHS to try to reduce waiting times—more resources, management and political influence, and in particular targets to which it is held to account3—have largely been mirrored in the other parts of the …

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