Child care waiting lists are rising twice as fast as the adult backlog, a top doctor has warned.
The waiting list for childcare, including surgeries, hit 360,000 in May, the latest NHS data shows, and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) warned it will worsen amid worsening pressures over the summer.
In an exclusive interview with the independent, dr RCPCH President Camilla Kingdon said services to children had not been adequately prioritized since a hit during the pandemic, compounded by an “extremely busy summer”.
She said children’s services were now facing a “perfect storm” as they were struggling due to heightened pressure from viruses, which had not been at high levels the previous summer, and staff being ill due to Covid. to meet the demand.
dr Kingdon said: “I don’t think it’s at all a surprise that the waiting lists are going up. I think the truth is that the rate of increase in the child waitlist is more than double the rate of increase for adults.”
Data on pediatric services shows that the number of children waiting more than 52 weeks for care fell in 2021 but started to rise in March 2022, rising five percent in May.
The average monthly growth of the child waiting list for 2022 is 3.2 percent and the total number reached 361,333 in May 2022. Now it is growing at a rate of about 10,000 children per month, and by December it is projected to reach 400,000.
Senior pediatricians have also raised concerns that children’s surgeries are being given less priority and not being addressed to the same extent as adults.
One warned that all pediatric ophthalmology services were being suspended as the sole senior consultant had to retire, while orthopedic wait times for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities were also increasing.
dr Kingdon said: “We are so busy at the moment with viral infections and very busy in general that our capacity to look after these children post-surgery, especially for the complex child, is very limited and you know, the surgery is only going to canceled if you can’t guarantee a pediatric intensive care bed post-op, the surgery just won’t go ahead.”
Sarah Morgan, from Liverpool, said her son Harry had been waiting two years for treatment for several health conditions including spasticity – abnormal muscle stiffness.
She said: “His physio team referred him to an orthopedist for intervention before it got very bad. I’ve called several times and keep getting told it’s the Covid backlog and [given] no indication of when he’ll get an appointment to even plan to fix them.
“They have now deteriorated massively. It’s been over two years and still no date in sight. We believe it makes him uncomfortable and limits his ability to engage in tactile activities.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the time to intervene had been missed. All I can see is the majority that Covid is the excuse for everything.”
April Fitzmaurice, boss of the charity Strong Bones, tells LatestPageNews: “Essentially all services to our families were shut down overnight with no support during Covid, operations are still being delayed.”
“It’s also so disheartening that the potential new prime ministers see no mention of social care, helping those who are clinically vulnerable or reducing waiting times.”
NHS England confirmed that the overall national waiting list growth was two per cent. It did not acknowledge growth in adult waiting lists.
An NHS spokesman said: “It is correct that hospitals have prioritized patients with the most pressing clinical needs. The number of people waiting the longest — including many children — has fallen by more than 80 percent since January.”
But dr Kingdon warned that the official waiting list data released by NHS England was a “gross underestimate” of the real number of children waiting for care overall.
She said, “We’re not even collecting enough data to really understand the scale of the problem.”
Of particular concern are waiting times for community-based care services in areas such as speech, language and autism assessments. not included in the national data.
“These are often children awaiting autism assessments where it will actually have a serious impact on their ability to function normally at school, for example.
“If you’re a toddler who has delayed motor milestones and you’re waiting for a physical therapy appointment, honestly, waiting six months is unacceptable.”
A children’s ministry director said there is a wide variation in childcare waiting times across the community, with some language and language services having waiting lists of six months while others have two years.