Children’s health hangs in the balance due to hospital backlogs

Canada-based children’s hospitals wait list has hit the highest it’s ever been, forcing infants to go without appropriate healthcare treatment.

New research, which was published on the last day of June, highlighted that two-thirds of paediatric patients in need of surgery at two of Ontario’s largest children’s hospitals are being forced to wait beyond the recommended timeframe as a result of backlogs and inadequate resources.

man wearing surgical suit near mirror

At Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, the surgical wait list increased to 6,509 last month – the highest it has ever been.

In addition, 67% of those on the list have been waiting longer than the recommended timeframe, which can lead to deteriorating health and even jeopardise the risks of a surgery not going as well as originally hoped.

Simon Kelley, the associate chief of perioperative services, clinical and ambulatory at SideKids, said: ‘It’s hard to overstate the gravity of the situation and the difficulty for children to access surgical care.

‘That used to be a never event. We never used to have kids waiting that long.’

Against this backdrop, in England, children’s surgery waiting lists have also hit record highs as the NHS have failed to tackle the spiralling backlog.

In May 2023, the backlog for children waiting for surgery hit 400,000 for the first time. Leaked documents displayed children’s waiting lists for both inpatient and outpatient care were ‘increasing at double the rate of adults’ and, despite efforts, services have failed to catch up after they were paused during the pandemic.

NHS leaders have repeatedly raised concerns about the backlog amid warnings that services for young people have been ‘deprioritised’ to cut adult lists.

One NHS leader warned that the long waits would be likely to affect some children’s ‘ability to lead full and active lives’ and worsen existing inequalities between adult and children’s care.

Image: Piron Guillaume


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