Unintended Consequences of COVID-19 Infections: NHS Wait Times Balloon for Consultations with Ear, Nose and Throat Consultants

According to a review of NHS figures carried out by the Nuffield Trust for The Guardian, the number of patients in England on the ear, nose and throat (ENT) waiting list, which includes medical consultations, has ‘risen sharply’ since the start of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.[i]  

In total, 510,000 people were waiting to be seen in April 2022, compared with 312,000 in March 2020. Average wait times explain this, with just 258 people waiting more than 1-year pre-COVID compared to 37,548 in the latest figures – a dramatic increase of 14,000%. In fact, statistics show that 1,730 people have now been waiting over 2-years for specialist treatment.

Nirmal Kumar, Consultant ENT Surgeon and former President of ENT UK, which represents ENT healthcare professionals, explained that the ‘immense’ backlog had been ‘particularly badly affected’ by COVID-19, as more urgent procedures, e.g. cancer surgery, were prioritised during this period.

The worst affected region in the country is the Midlands, with 109,000 residents waiting 19-weeks, on average.

Despite admitting that some progress had been made recently, e.g. through harnessing technology to speed up testing, another ENT Consultant Surgeon, Tim Mitchell, has requested an influx of NHS staff to meet high demand and to ensure that patients at the back of the queue are ‘not left waiting in limbo’. Mr. Mitchell commands the influential position of Vice President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Whether or not cutting NHS waiting times will affect the size of the NIHL claims market is unknown.


[i] Andrew Gregory, ‘500,000 wait for ear, nose and throat treatment after PM has NHS operation’ (24 June 2022 The Guardian) <https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/jun/24/boris-johnson-recovers-from-nhs-sinus-surgery-as-500000-others-wait> accessed 7 July 2022.