Around one-quarter (24%) of adults report that waiting too long for a GP or hospital appointment has had a negative impact on their mental health, according to research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).
And with an NHS backlog of more than 7 million people, nearly a fifth (18%) of people say the wait negatively affected their physical health through the winter period (18 October 2023 to 1 January 2024).
The ONS research, released today, also found that just over half (52%) of adults reported they had tried to contact a GP practice either in person, on the phone or online in the past month, with 33% reporting it was difficult or very difficult to do so.
Meanwhile, a quarter (25%) of adults reported they were waiting for a hospital appointment, test, or to start receiving medical treatment through the NHS, which has increased since the previous periods (21% in late autumn and winter 2022 and 21% in February 2023).
Among those waiting for a hospital appointment, test, or to start receiving medical treatment through the NHS, 18% reported waiting for more than a year.
Health & Protection reported earlier this month that in November the NHS waiting list had declined by about 100,000 people to just over 7.6 million people.
Brett Hill, head of health and protection at independent consultancy Broadstone (pictured), said: “Today’s research from the ONS demonstrates the extent of the harms being done to the physical and mental health the nation due to the unprecedented strain on the NHS.
“Millions and millions of people are reporting negative impacts on their mental and physical health as a result of not being able to access medical services at their time of need, as waiting lists remain at record levels.
“Nearly one in five of those waiting for a hospital appointment, test or to start treatment said that they had been waiting for more than a year which demonstrates the struggles people face at the present time.
“The direct health consequences of the pressures on the NHS are further evidence of the growing need for employers to fund private healthcare services for their staff, as they recognise that they must step in to support employees.
“If not, they face the possibility of long-term absenteeism and productivity decline as these health issues deteriorate into more complex, harder-to-treat conditions.”