More than half of over-50s waiting for an operation are in pain every day, according to a report that delves into the impact of long NHS waiting lists.
In its “Patiently waiting” report, older people’s charity Independent Age found that 52% of over-50s waiting for a procedure experienced pain on a daily basis, while 55% struggled with day-to-day activities.
The number of people on NHS waiting lists is now at a record 5.61 million, with one-in-three over-65s waiting more than 12 months for a planned procedure, according to the report.
The delay in hip and knee surgery has also resulted in a 40% increase in opioid drug use to relieve pain, according to a University of Aberdeen study.
Independent Age’s report found that uncertainty, poor communication and a lack of support had made the lives of those waiting for treatment “excruciating”, “intolerable” and “lonely”.
Seventy-one per cent reported pain at some point while on a waiting list and 47% said the NHS had not provided or offered any support for them to manage their condition or the pain relating to it.
Just 15% had received information about pain management and 41% described the communication from the hospital or clinician was poor.
“We recognise the NHS has been under huge pressure due to Covid-19 and their staff have gone above and beyond to support those with the virus and to keep routine services running. However, we now have the longest backlogs on record and a significant number of people over 65 are caught up in them,” said Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Independent Age.
“Many older people are living in daily pain and experiencing declining mental and physical health. We’ve heard from people who are struggling with day-to-day tasks like preparing food, brushing their teeth or going for walks. Their wait for surgery is negatively affecting their mood and wellbeing, and many have told us they feel frustrated and forgotten.
“Reducing the record numbers of people waiting for surgery must remain a priority for the government, but it should also do more to stop those already waiting from deteriorating further.”
Alsina added that the government’s funding commitment to tackle the backlog was welcomed, however it will “still take several years for the NHS to recover”.
The report has recommended that the government funds surgical hubs in local areas that target high-volume procedures such as knee and hip replacements. It also urged the NHS to implement a personalised care and management plan for all people waiting six months or longer for treatment.
Thirty-one per cent of those surveyed had considered private healthcare since the start of the pandemic and 18% had paid for some form of private healthcare in order to overcome long waiting lists, the report added.
Independent Age commissioned a YouGov survey of 8,002 people aged 50 and over.