Jessica Morris, fellow at the Nuffield Trust and co-author of the research, said: “We know that more children and young people are attending GP services and receiving urgent referrals rather than routine ones; that’s a concern because it could be because their condition is worsening while they wait for care.”
NHS figures show at the worst-performing trust in May – Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, in Surrey – just 36.1 per cent of children were seen within the 18-week target and the average wait for a paediatric appointment was 25.4 weeks.
Typical waiting times for general paediatric outpatient appointments are currently 47 weeks at the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Brighton. Hospital websites show average waits are 32 weeks at the Royal United Hospitals Bath and 28 weeks at Colchester Hospital, in Essex.
Specialist services have lengthy waiting lists
Some specialist paediatric services also have lengthy waiting lists, with waits of 48 weeks for ENT (ear, nose and throat) services in Bath and up to 30 weeks for children’s surgery and dermatology at the Royal Surrey Hospital in Guildford, Surrey.
It is understood Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust’s waiting times for May were skewed by a handful of cases with extremely lengthy waits. The trust said it was now operating at the national target of 92 per cent of children being seen within 18 weeks.
A spokesperson said: “We are aware of some of our sub-specialty challenges within surgery which has been impacted by capacity; however, we are working to prioritise these as much as possible to expedite treatment.
“Our other key area is paediatric dermatology where there is a known national shortage of staff. We are in the process of appointing locum consultants within the service, which should support increasing our capacity and improve our waiting times for this service.”
An NHS spokesman said: “It is right that hospitals have been prioritising patients with the most urgent clinical need.”
Health officials have pledged to eliminate two-year waits for adults and children, and have cut these by 85 per cent since January.
“Staff have achieved this despite facing record numbers of patients attending A&E and record ambulance calls out, all as covid cases have increased and caused more staff absences, so it remains as important as ever that children come forward for care through 999 in an emergency or for other health conditions – 111 online or their local GP,” a spokesman said