Waiting patiently: is it inevitable for orthopaedic services?

Waiting patiently: is it inevitable for orthopaedic services?
Waiting patiently: is it inevitable for orthopaedic services?

When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the NHS was forced to postpone enormous volumes of planned treatment including non-urgent operations to free-up staff and beds for patients seriously unwell with Covid-191.

One in eight people waiting for more than a year

Postponing treatment on non-urgent areas has had consequences for orthopaedic services which now has the highest number of people on a waiting list at approximately 646,000. Of this number, around one in eight people (81,000) have been waiting for more than a year2.

Orthopaedic services focus on the musculoskeletal system with hip, knee and shoulder replacements among its most common surgeries.

These types of surgeries are considered elective. This means they are important but not considered urgent or to present an immediate, possibly life-threatening issue.

Tackling the backlog could take years

The government acknowledges the waiting list for elective care is likely to get considerably longer and Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has even warned that the list ‘could go as high as 13 million’3.

Tackling the backlog to get patients treated and restoring elective care to pre-pandemic levels is likely to take years1.

What are the consequences of waiting?

Professor Turner, a former president of the British Orthopaedic Association who specialises in knee surgery, said the effect on patients is “very serious”. “They are clearly in pain and it gets worse as time goes on. They become immobile, which means if they are of working age they can no longer work, or find it harder and harder to.”

“Then, when patients are eventually admitted, they are in worse health for having waited so long, which means their recovery period may well be longer. Also, there is a need for more complex surgery because of the time spent waiting for treatment4.”

Not on a waiting list yet…

With growing NHS waiting lists and no signs of changing, your clients may not be waiting for treatment now, but one day they could be.

Waiting patiently and in pain doesn’t have to be an inevitability for your clients. They can look after their future health with health insurance from The Exeter.

Orthopaedics –the top reason our members claimed

With Health+, we have been looking after our members throughout the pandemic including paying claims for elective surgeries such as orthopaedic services. In fact, it was the top reason our members made a claim in 20205.

You matter more

Talking to your clients about protecting their health before they experience health problems is key.

Sadly, many people on orthopaedic waiting lists wouldn't be able to benefit from health insurance as their condition is likely to be excluded, encouraging your clients to take action now could help them avoid a long wait in the future.

For more information about how our health insurance could help your clients, please arrange a briefing with one of our team.


• Orthopaedic services are categorised under our Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disorders claims.
• Pre-existing conditions may be excluded from your client’s cover.


1. https://www.health.org.uk/news-and-comment/charts-and-infographics/elective-care-how-has-covid-19-affected-the-waiting-list
2. https://www.lcp.uk.com/our-viewpoint/2021/06/larger-waiting-lists-and-longer-waits-a-worrying-indirect-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/
3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57793122
4. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/08/29/nhs-shutdown-has-led-nearly-300000-waiting-pain-crucial-hip/
5. The Exeter Claims Stats. Note: Orthopaedic Services falls under The Exeter claims category Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders. This was the top claim by volume of claims in 2020.