Women left in agony by 18-month gynaecology waiting list on the NHS 

Women left in agony by 18-month gynaecology waiting list on the NHS

  • 40,000 women have been waiting more than a year to see a gynaecologist
  • Almost 5,000 of them have been on waiting lists for more than 18 months 
  • This compares to 2019 when there just 54 women who had waited a year  

More than 40,000 women have been waiting for more than a year to see a gynaecologist, NHS statistics reveal.

Among them are almost 5,000 patients who have been on the waiting list for more than 18 months. Many are in agony as they wait for surgical procedures.

In 2019 there were just 54 women who had been waiting more than a year.

The NHS target time for a gynaecology appointment is within 18 weeks of referral and last night experts and MPs warned that women are being ‘failed’, condemning the situation as ‘totally unacceptable’.

This year, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) found gynaecology had experienced the biggest waiting list increases of all medical specialities after the pandemic.

Many women have been referred after presenting symptoms of endometriosis, a potentially agonising condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other parts of the body, including the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

More than 40,000 women have been waiting for more than a year to see a gynaecologist, NHS statistics reveal. Stock image of a gynecological room in a female clinic

More than 40,000 women have been waiting for more than a year to see a gynaecologist, NHS statistics reveal. Stock image of a gynecological room in a female clinic 

An exclusive analysis of NHS statistics shows that 40,076 women have been waiting more than a year to see a gynaecologist, with a total of 549,281 women in England now on a waiting list – one in every 50 females aged 11 and up.

Just 55 per cent are seen within the target time of 18 weeks, down from 85 per cent two years ago.

Faye Farthing, of charity Endometriosis UK, said: ‘Women are struggling with debilitating symptoms.

‘It cannot be the case of ‘wait or pay’ Nobody should face decisions between their finances and health.’

One of those affected by the condition was Chelsea FC women’s team manager Emma Hayes, who struggled for four years to get a diagnosis from GPs despite being in agony. In October she underwent an emergency hysterectomy using private health insurance.

She said: ‘If these conditions were suffered by a man there would be zero chance you would be waiting [as long]. It’s up to our Government to invest in healthcare.’

One of those affected by the condition was Chelsea FC women's team manager Emma Hayes (pictured), who struggled for four years to get a diagnosis from GPs despite being in agony. In October she underwent an emergency hysterectomy using private health insurance

One of those affected by the condition was Chelsea FC women’s team manager Emma Hayes (pictured), who struggled for four years to get a diagnosis from GPs despite being in agony. In October she underwent an emergency hysterectomy using private health insurance

Another sufferer, Chetna Mistry, 43, has waited two-and-a-half years for a hysterectomy and still does not have a date for the operation. Since being on the waiting list, she has been hospitalised several times in agony. She said: ‘It’s a living nightmare, the pain never stops.’

Mary, a 57-year-old civil servant, was forced to go private after waiting 11 months for an operation. She said that in September she was called by NHS England, who asked: ‘Have you sorted yourself out?’

After explaining she had sought help privately in desperation, the caller said ‘Great, you’re off the list’ and dropped the phone.

Last night Dr Edward Morris, president of the RCOG, said: ‘We have seen women’s health deprioritised and overlooked.

‘Gynaecology isn’t prioritised for surgery against other specialties. There is less access to theatre time and beds and more women are having to wait longer for care.’

While the national picture is bad, it is even worse at regional level.

With more gynaecologists in London per head of the population than elsewhere, women in the capital are relatively well protected. About one in 30 women waiting have been on the list for over a year. But that proportion rises to one in ten in the Midlands and one in eight in the North-West. At eight NHS hospital trusts in England – all in the North, Midlands or East Anglia – more than a fifth of women have been waiting for over a year, accordinbg to figures compiled using NHS data with the help of consultancy firm LCP Health Analytics and period-care brand &Sisters.

They include University Hospitals Birmingham (24.9 per cent waiting over a year), Worcestershire Acute Hospitals (24.5 per cent) and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals (24.3 per cent).

There are also appalling waiting times in Labour-run Wales. Sara Grinter, 33, from Cardiff, has been told she will need to wait six years for endometriosis surgery.

There are also appalling waiting times in Labour-run Wales. Sara Grinter (pictured), 33, from Cardiff, has been told she will need to wait six years for endometriosis surgery

There are also appalling waiting times in Labour-run Wales. Sara Grinter (pictured), 33, from Cardiff, has been told she will need to wait six years for endometriosis surgery

She has to take co-codamol, which contains an opioid, to manage her pain. She said: ‘I’ve had instances at work where I’ve been in a meeting and I’ve bled through my clothes.’

Labour MP and Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said: ‘Women are left to wait in pain and discomfort, preventing them from working and forcing them to put their lives on hold.’

Dr Caroline Johnson, Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham who sits on the health and social care committee, said: ‘I am totally shocked. The rise shows that shifting the gynaecology backlog must be the priority now.’

An NHS spokesperson said: ‘The NHS is making significant progress in addressing the Covid backlog, including for gynaecology, with the number of women waiting over two years reduced from 1,307 in January to 107 in September.’

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