NHS England’s waiting list for elective treatment fell from 7.7m in October to 7.6m in November.
That’s the smallest it’s been since June, but still far larger than it was in November 2022 (7.2m).
Despite facing the most sustained industrial action in its history, the NHShas had a relatively good winter.
A mild flu season has helped keep demand for the health service relatively low, at least partially offsetting the impact of the strikes.
As of 7 January, just 2,271 beds were rendered unavailable due to seasonal winter illnesses.
That’s less than half the figure at this time last year (5,151).
As a result, hospitals have been unusually empty for this time of year, with 91.9% of beds occupied (compared to 93.8% at the same time last year).
With more capacity, hospitals have had more space to take on elective cases and cut waiting lists.
It has also reduced some of the pressures on A&E departments. Waiting times have fallen, though they still remain well above their pre-pandemic levels.
In December, 104,000 people waited more than four hours to be admitted to A&E after the decision had been made to admit them, or 27% of all admissions.
That’s down from a record 33% of admissions in 2022, but far higher than it was in 2018 (11%).
One in every 12 admissions this December (8%, or 44,000 people) were forced to wait over 12 hours. Such waits were almost unheard of before the pandemic, affecting just 284 patients in December 2018.
Similarly, ambulance response times are better than last year, but remain above target.
The average call-out for a heart attack or stroke took 46 minutes to arrive, down from 48 minutes in December 2022 but six minutes above target.
For 10% of calls, ambulances took an hour and 41 minutes.
Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of the health charity, the King’s Fund, said the figures showed the NHS was still not meeting the majority of its most important performance targets this winter.
“On some measures, the situation is better than this time last year, in part thanks to efforts to increase capacity as well as relatively low hospital admissions from COVID-19 and flu, but patients are still not receiving an acceptable level of service,” she said.
“Behind each of these figures is a person who is struggling to receive the timely care they need and deserve, despite the best efforts of staff.”
Read more from Sky News: How NHS is ‘standing still’ to meet existing demand Local NHS bodies on track to spend £4.9bn more than planned
Kate Seymour, head of advocacy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said that while the data showed a slight improvement on wait times, there were “still thousands of people in England facing agonising delays for vital cancer diagnosis and treatment”.
“Every day at Macmillan we hear how these unacceptable delays can cause needless anxiety and even result in a worse prognosis. People’s lives are being put at risk, and it’s simply not good enough,” she said.
Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said the figures showed the progress “our fantastic NHS staff can make towards bringing waiting lists down when they don’t have to contend with industrial action”.
“November was the first month without industrial action for over a year, and we reduced the total waiting list by more than 95,000 – the biggest decrease since December 2010, outside of the pandemic,” she said.
“We want to put an end to damaging strikes once and for all, and if the BMA Junior Doctors Committee can demonstrate they have reasonable expectations, I will still sit down with them.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being petitioned to apologise to British child migrants who suffered “shame and isolation”.
It is the latest move by campaigners demanding an official apology for the treatment endured by youngsters shipped to Canada in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The petition, initiated by the group Home Children Canada, states child migrants were subjected to abuse and stigmatisation, and that many died “ashamed of their history and deprived of their family”.
About 115,000 youngsters, so-called British Home Children, were shipped to Canada from the UK between 1869 and 1948.
Typically, they were used as cheap labour and put to work on farms or as domestic servants and many have told stories of overwork and mistreatment.
They were transferred from orphan homes in the UK but campaigners for the Home Children say that many were only temporary residents of the orphanages and had families who were unaware they made the trip to Canada.
Read more: The forgotten legacy of British children sent to Canada
Now, those campaigners have submitted a petition calling on Justin Trudeau to follow the example of the UK and Australia in issuing a formal apology, something the Canadian government has resisted.
Presented to Canada’s House of Commons, the petition states: “Home children/child migrants were, as a result of the system, thrust into difficult and inappropriate personal living circumstances exacerbated by a belief that they were unwanted by parents and, as a result, denied access to siblings and/or other relatives.”
“We… call upon the prime minister to sincerely apologise to Home Children/child migrants who suffered in shame and isolation, to those who died while being ashamed of their history and deprived of their family, to elderly survivors burdened by their past, and to descendants grappling with the inter-generational impacts of a system that mistreated and separated their families.”
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Canada’s British ‘Home Children’
One of the last surviving British Home Children, George Beardshaw, supports the campaign for an apology.
In an interview with Sky News in September 2023, George, aged 100, said: “People thought that Britain was sending over some of the scum from off the streets of London, they all thought we were thieves.
“Some got pitchforks through them. Some slept in the barn with the cattle.”
The UK and Australian governments have issued official apologies for their parts in child migrant schemes.
In 2017, Canada’s House of Commons passed a motion of apology, but there has been none from the government itself.
In September 2023, Sky News asked Mr Trudeau if his government owed an apology to British Home Children. He didn’t address the question, saying only: “Good to see you.”
In response to the latest petition, the Canadian government told Sky News: “The government of Canada is committed to keeping the memory of the British Home Children alive so that we can all learn from past mistakes.
“As adopted by the House of Commons in February 2018, the government of Canada supports the designation of 28 September as British Home Child Day in order to raise awareness and ensure the recognition of the many contributions British Home Children have made to Canada.
“The government has supported a number of outreach, commemorative and educational initiatives to recognise the experience of the Home Children.
“These include the designation of the immigration experience of former Home Children as a national historic event; and the establishment of a commemorative plaque at the site of a former receiving home in Stratford, Ontario.”
Life-support treatment has been withdrawn from a critically ill baby girl who has been at the centre of a legal battle, a campaign organisation supporting her parents has said.
Eight-month-old Indi Gregory has been transferred from the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham to a hospice, Christian Concern said on Sunday.
She stopped breathing on Saturday night but then recovered, the organisation said.
“She is fighting hard,” her father Dean Gregory is quoting as saying.
Indi was born in February with a rare mitochondrial disease, a genetic condition that saps energy, and has been receiving life-sustaining treatment. Her doctors have said she suffers from significant pain and distress, and that treatment is futile.
Mr Gregory and Indi’s mother Claire Staniforth have fought to overturn multiple court rulings on their daughter’s treatment, but have not been successful.
It is understood Indi was transferred from the hospital in Nottingham to an ambulance with a police security escort.
She is said to have been relaxed and slept during the journey to the hospice.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Dean and Claire are by the side of their precious daughter Indi, keeping watch over her. We ask for your prayers for them”.
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2 Nov: Indi Gregory’s dad says he ‘will fight till the end’
Pope Francis offers prayers
Baby Indi’s move to the hospice comes after the Court of Appeal dismissed a challenge from her parents on Friday to an earlier ruling that her life support should be removed in either a hospital or a hospice. Her parents had said she should be allowed to have treatment removed at home.
Mr Justice Peel concluded that “extubation and palliative care at the family home” would be “all but impossible”.
Her parents, who are from from Ilkeston, Derbyshire, have also failed in a bid to transfer Indi to a hospital in Rome where she had been offered treatment and Italian citizenship.
The judge ruled a move to Italy would not be in Indi’s best interests and Court of Appeal judges backed that decision.
The Vatican Press Office released a statement on Saturday saying Pope Francis is praying for the family.
“Pope Francis embraces the family of little Indi Gregory, her father, and her mother; prays for them and for her, and turns his thoughts to all the children around the world at this very hour are living in pain or risk their lives because of illness or war,” the statement said.
More than half of people have no faith they would receive timely treatment on the NHS if they were diagnosed with cancer, a poll has suggested.
The poll, by Savanta for the Liberal Democrats, also showed people are ignoring moles they think are cancerous and even attempting to remove lumps themselves because they think it will take too long to see a GP.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said the results show the Conservatives have “broken people’s faith” in local services.
Politics Live: Prisons ‘weeks or days’ away from being full
Savanta asked 2,185 people how confident they were that they would be seen within a two-month timeframe if they were referred to a specialist for suspected cancer.
Some 40% said they were confident they would, but 52% were not confident and around 9% did not know.
People were also asked which of the following, if any, they had done because they thought it would take too long to be seen by a GP.
Some 21% said they had called NHS 111, 13% had ignored a lump or suspicious mole completely, 11% had self-diagnosed a lump or mole using the internet and 8% had gone straight to A and E with a lump or mole they thought could be cancerous.
Some 8% paid for private treatment to inspect a lump or mole and 7% had attempted to remove a mole on themselves or someone else.
Sir Ed said: “It’s shocking to see how badly people’s faith in their local health services has been broken by this Conservative government – to the extent that people are now putting their own health at risk by ignoring possible cancer symptoms.
“Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer is vital for improving someone’s survival, but these statistics show that some people have lost confidence that they will get it.”
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Sir Ed has promised to introduce a guarantee for cancer patients to begin treatment within two months if his party holds the balance of power after the next general election.
He has previously shared how he lost both parents at a young age to cancer.
The Lib Dems are looking to make major gains at the next election and have around 80 “blue-wall” seats in their sights where they came second to the Tories in 2019.
They have been focusing on the NHS as part of plans to woo Conservatives in the rural heartlands.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made slashing waiting lists one of his five key priorities for government.
But the number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has continued to hit a record high.
An estimated 7.75 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of August, the latest figures show, up from 7.68 million in July.
The data showed all cancer waiting time targets were missed.
Improvement work is under way amid a report that treatment for ovarian cancer in Scotland is a “postcode lottery” and has left some women with no option but to pay for private healthcare.
MSP Carol Mochan said she was “dismayed” to read a newspaper’s report of a “two-tiered health system, where the wealthy can afford treatment and even those on average incomes have little choice but to spend most of their savings on surgery to keep them alive”.
During topical questions at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Ms Mochan added: “If you are poor, it seems your [option is to hope] you can get surgery on the NHS before it is too late.”
Jenni Minto, minister for public health and women’s health, said regional cancer networks have undertaken improvement work to reduce ovarian cancer surgery waits.
She added: “The Scottish government continues to monitor these activities and support progress in improving overall care for ovarian cancer patients.
“The NHS continue to prioritise cancer care and where there is an urgent suspicion of cancer, they make every effort to ensure a patient is seen quickly – with median waiting times to treatment for those on our urgent pathways being four days.”
Ovarian cancer is called a “silent killer” as it is often detected once it has advanced and spread, making treatment more difficult.
Treatment will usually involve a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
The Sunday Post report claimed that women in northern and eastern Scotland are able to access treatment and surgery quickly, while those in the west face delays unless they can pay for their own.
One woman from Ayr opted for private surgery as she did not want to play “Russian roulette” with her life.
Read more: Women in certain jobs ‘may be at higher risk of ovarian cancer’ Shopping habits could help spot signs of ovarian cancer
The concerns come two years after the launch of Scotland’s flagship Women’s Health Plan to help tackle health inequality.
Ms Mochan, Scottish Labour MSP for South Scotland, stated: “There has rarely been a time since the foundation of the NHS where it has been so dangerous to be a woman who is not well-off in Scotland.
“And depending on where you live, the situation could be even worse.”
Ms Minto, SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute, said she had read the same article.
She said: “I absolutely understand the concern that this is causing.”
The minister said the Scottish government had met with clinical leads to “understand current practice and how we can continue to improve outcomes”, with improvement work already under way.
Ms Minto added: “The Scottish ovarian cancer clinic networks [have] set out some immediate actions, but also some short-term actions.
“For example, including increasing theatre capacity and also mutual support between health boards.”
The time people are waiting to be treated for migraines has almost doubled in England, according to a new report.
And the Migraine Trust has called for the “debilitating and stigmatised” condition to be taken seriously by clinicians.
The charity said there should be greater awareness of the pathways that exist for managing migraines, which can cause severe pain as well as nausea, confusion and blurred vision.
One in seven adults – or 10 million people – in the UK are thought to be affected by migraines.
And more than one million have chronic migraine – which means they experience headaches for at least 15 days of the month.
Read more: Newly recommended treatment for acute migraines could help thousands Migraine and cluster headaches linked to the body’s internal clock
Robert Music, chief executive of the Migraine Trust, said: “Not only are patients struggling, but poor management of migraine is putting unnecessary additional strain on an already struggling NHS.
“We are seeing rising A&E admissions for migraine across the UK.
“There is a shortage of GPs, consultants and nurses specialising in headache to meet the need that we know exists, and a broad lack of understanding of the condition, meaning patients are not being treated in the right place or at the right time, if at all.”
Data obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request by the Migraine Trust revealed waiting times for patients requiring specialist care for migraines in England have increased from 15 weeks in 2021 to an average of 29 weeks in 2023.
It also claims access to new drugs is being “hindered” by wait times, along with a lack of specialist doctors and nurses.
Dr Brendan Davies, chairman of the British Association for the Study of Headache and a consultant neurologist at Royal Stoke University Hospital, said: “The time has come for a nationally-agreed educational framework and quality standard for primary care, as we have with other important long-term conditions.”
Levelling up minister Dehenna Davison resigned from the role earlier this month due to her ongoing battle with chronic migraine.
The Conservative MP said: “Migraine affects so many people in the UK and yet awareness of what it really is remains painfully limited.
“No, it is not just a headache – it is a complex condition that can greatly impact individuals and their families every single day.
“We need to improve awareness about the symptoms and challenges of migraine to help improve access to quality treatments and improve the workplace experience.”
The first-ever womb transplant in the UK has been hailed as the “dawn of a new era” in fertility treatment.
A 40-year-old woman, who already had two children, decided to help her 34-year-old sister, who had been born without a uterus.
Now, six months on, the recipient is having periods and is preparing to eventually have her own embryos implanted, already created via IVF with her own eggs.
Professor Richard Smith, one of two lead surgeons during the operations, said it had been a “massive success”, describing the joy he shared with the sisters during a clinic one month on.
“We were all in tears – it was a very, very emotional,” he said.
“I think it was probably the most stressful week of our surgical careers, but also unbelievably positive.
“The donor and recipient are just over the moon.”
The recipient lives in England, and she and her sister do not wish to be named.
The surgery was carried out one Sunday in early February at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital by a team of more than 30 staff.
The operation to remove the donor’s womb lasted more than eight hours.
Before the uterus was taken out, surgeons had already begun operating on her younger sister and after a further nine hours and 20 minutes, the transplant was complete.
The surgery was funded by Womb Transplant UK at a cost of £25,000, which included paying the NHS for theatre time and the patients’ hospital stay.
Surgeons and medical staff were not paid for their time.
“I’m just really happy that we’ve got a donor, who is completely back to normal after her big op, and the recipient is… doing really well on her immunosuppressive therapy and looking forward to hopefully having a baby,” said Prof Smith, who is the charity’s clinical lead.
The transplant is expected to last for a maximum of five years before the womb will be removed.
The chair of the British Fertility Society, Dr Raj Mathur, described it as “a remarkable achievement”.
“I think it’s the dawn of a new age, a new era in treating these patients,” said the consultant gynaecologist.
“You have got to remember some of these patients are the most difficult fertility situations that you can imagine – they are either born without a uterus or they have lost the uterus for reasons of cancer or other problems, for instance in labour.
“Up until now we have really not had any way of helping them other than surrogacy.”
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Surgeons perform UK’s first womb transplant
Read more: New ‘game-changing’ treatment approved for advanced womb cancer Babies in womb ‘smile for carrots and cry at greens’ Pollution ‘can reach babies in womb and could damage developing organs’
Isabel Quiroga, consultant surgeon at the Oxford Transplant Centre, and fellow lead during the operations, said they had been ready to attempt the first transplant before the pandemic.
“We are just delighted that this day had come,” she said.
“The whole team worked extremely well – it was an incredibly proud moment.”
For now, the plan is to focus on living donations from a relative with up to 30 transplants a year, but many women have come forward to offer their wombs.
“We have women contacting the charity… such as young women who say: ‘I don’t want to have children, but I would love to help others have a child’ or ‘I’ve already had my children I would love other women to have that experience’,” said Miss Quiroga.
Other countries, including Sweden and US, have already carried out womb transplants, ultimately resulting in successful births.
A second UK womb transplant on another woman is scheduled to take place this autumn, with more patients in the preparation stages.
Hundreds of people have lost their sight due to treatment delays caused by NHS backlogs, it has been revealed.
NHS England figures, released after a Freedom of Information request by the Association of Optometrists (AOP), showed that more than 200 eye care patients had suffered because of long waits for care since 2019.
Of those, 99 incidents involved “severe harm” and 120 “moderate harm” – including one patient who went blind in their left eye after going three months without what should have been a monthly injection.
Hundreds more people are suspected to have been affected by what the AOP described as a “health emergency”.
The backlog for ophthalmology appointments in England is the second-largest in the NHS, standing at 628,502 – with 27,260 waiting a year or more.
Nearly half of UK optometrists are now seriously concerned about the number of patients who could lose sight unnecessarily because of NHS backlogs, the AOP warned.
People ‘terrified’ of going blind
It comes after a poll revealed more than half of Britons who have needed treatment for macular eye conditions in the past two years have experienced a delay waiting for an appointment or care.
Nearly half of the 498 people surveyed have experienced a loss or decline in vision during this time.
Cathy Yelf, chief executive of eye charity Macular Society, said people are “terrified” at the prospect of going blind.
Read more: NHS set to miss two key recovery targets Hundreds of pharmacies at risk of closure
The AOP is calling on the government to adopt a “national strategy for eye care” to tackle the issue, including allowing more community optometrists to provide care and follow-up services to reduce pressure on the NHS.
AOP chief Adam Sampson said: “There are good treatments available for common age-related eye conditions like macular degeneration, but many hospital trusts simply do not have the capacity to deliver services.”
“It’s incomprehensible and absolutely tragic that patients are waiting, losing their vision, in many parts of the country because of the way eye healthcare is commissioned,” he added.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the NHS was making good progress in reducing wait times and is working towards eliminating delays of a year or more for elective care by March 2025.
The government plans to spend more than £8bn between 2022 and 2025 to support elective recovery.
“No one should have to suffer avoidable sight loss, and we are taking action to improve access to services, including appointing a national clinical director for eye care to oversee the recovery and transformation of services, so patients receive the care they need,” said a spokesperson.
“We are also investing in the ophthalmology workforce, with more training places provided in 2022 – and even more planned for 2023 – alongside improved training for existing staff.”
A 13-year-old has become leukaemia-free with help from a revolutionary new treatment, doctors say.
Alyssa, whose family did not want to give their surname, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2021.
Conventional treatments, including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, failed to prevent the disease from returning.
In May, Alyssa was given universal CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cells that had been pre-manufactured from a healthy donor, as part of a clinical trial.
Twenty-eight days later, she was in remission and was able to have a second bone marrow transplant.
She is said to be “doing well” recovering at home, while her condition is monitored by Great Ormond Street Hospital, where she received the treatment.
Alyssa’s mother Kiona said the family were “on a strange cloud nine”, adding: “Hopefully this can prove the research works and they can offer it to more children – all of this needs to have been for something.”
Alyssa, from Leicester, said: “Once I do it, people will know what they need to do, one way or another, so doing this will help people – of course I’m going to do it.”
Without the treatment, the next step was palliative care
The pre-manufactured cells were edited using new technology.
The edited CAR T-cells can then be given to a patient so that they quickly find and destroy T-cells in the body, including cancerous ones.
Then the person can have a bone marrow transplant to restore their depleted immune system.
Without the treatment, Alyssa’s only next step would have been palliative care, scientists said.
Dr Robert Chiesa, consultant in bone marrow transplant and CAR T-cell therapy at GOSH, said the outcome was “quite remarkable”, but said Alyssa’s condition must continue to be monitored over the next few months.
He said: “Since Alyssa got sick with her leukaemia in May last year, she never achieved a complete remission – not with chemotherapy and not after her first bone marrow transplant.
“Only after she received her CD7 CAR-T cell therapy and a second bone marrow transplant in GOSH she has become leukaemia-free.”
‘Ultimately better futures for sick children’
Professor Waseem Qasim, consultant immunologist at GOSH, said: “This is a great demonstration of how, with expert teams and infrastructure, we can link cutting-edge technologies in the lab with real results in the hospital for patients.
“It’s our most sophisticated cell engineering so far and paves the way for other new treatments and ultimately better futures for sick children.”
The research will be presented at the American Society of Haematology’s annual meeting in New Orleans this weekend.
Great Ormond Street Hospital wants to recruit up to 10 patients with T-cell leukaemia who have exhausted all conventional options for a clinical trial. They will be referred by specialists.