4 April 2022
In a new report. ‘Left for too long: understanding the scale and impact of gynaecology waiting lists ’, LCP’s Health Analytics team have highlighted the stark growth in the number of women waiting for gynaecology care. Since the start of the pandemic, gynaecology waiting lists have grown by 59% to over 570,000. Even before the pandemic, gynaecology waiting lists were growing, with the growth of waiting lists outstripping other specialties since April 2018.
In England, the number of women waiting over a year for treatment has gone from less than one in one thousand women on the waiting list before the pandemic to more than one in 20.
There is also stark geographical variation in the length of gynaecology waiting lists across England, with the North West having 8 out of the 10 worst affected Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). This is creating a post code lottery for gynaecological case. Comparing the worst affected CCG with the least affected CCG shows that the worst affected has a waiting list over five times larger than that of the CCG with the lowest waiting list.
In Scotland, there has been a 95% rise, with 40,000 now facing prolonged waits for care. In Wales there has been a 62% rise with 42,000 women waiting.
Alongside the data, the report also included a survey conducted by the RCOG of 837 women who were waiting for gynaecology care. This revealed the impact these waits are having, with:
- Four fifths (80%) of women saying their mental health has worsened due to the wait
- 1 in 4 of those whose mental health had deteriorated, pain was given as a reason.
- More than three quarters (77%) of women saying that their ability to work or take part in social activities had been negatively impacted.
- 61% saying they felt despair at the long waits, and 63% feeling ignored.
Rebecca Sloan, Women’s health lead at LCP, commented: “The pandemic has exacerbated already large waiting lists for women needing gynaecology treatment across the country, with gynaecology waiting lists increasing at one of the fastest rates of all specialities between April 2018 and February 2020 and since the pandemic the waiting list has continued to increase at the highest rate of all other specialities. While waiting lists show the amount of people currently waiting, they don’t show the true scale because there are many people who have health issues but have not yet come forward for treatment due to the pandemic.
“This hidden health need is likely to overstretch an already pressured NHS if resources aren’t urgently diverted to the parts of the country where waiting times are at crisis point. There is the risk that thousands more women could be living with discomfort, pain and a real impact on their lives if action isn’t taken.”
Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “Hundreds of thousands of women with gynaecological conditions across the UK are being forced to tolerate extreme pain and debilitating symptoms because of unacceptable waiting lists for diagnosis and treatment.
“As a consultant gynaecologist, I personally feel helpless speaking to women about the impact these waits are having on both their physical and mental health, and not being able to do anything to speed up their access to care.
“We believe the reason gynaecology waiting lists have seen the biggest growth is because time and again we see women’s health consistently deprioritised and overlooked. At its core it is gender bias and it’s reflective of society as a whole. Women are being let down and change is urgently needed.
“The RCOG is calling for an overhaul of the way the NHS prioritises treatment, looking beyond clinical need recognising the suffering of these women. The NHS must take meaningful action to ensure that those on waiting lists are given priority based on the impact that their conditions are having on their quality of life as a whole – especially as we emerge from the pandemic.”
LCP analyses NHS waiting list data using their NHS Waiting List Tracker