Brits' mental and physical health deteriorating due to cancelled or delayed appointments and operations

A third of over 60 year olds say their mental health had suffered as a result of cancelled or delayed diagnostic tests or operations, with a quarter (25%) worried their physical health would also deteriorate, according to a new survey released today from Nuffield Health.

With today’s generation of older people having ambitious plans for their retirement, almost a quarter fear their health will stand in the way. Having sought help, one in 10 (16%) Brits aged over 60 then had their appointment postponed two or more times. Of those who had their appointment, test or operation cancelled, three in 10 (29%) were given less than 24 hours’ notice, with 16% cancelled on the day. With 73% having mentally prepared, they then had to wait an average of 10.5 weeks for it to be rescheduled, with two in 10 waiting over 16 weeks.  

The survey revealed the delays and cancellations caused three in 10 over 60 year-olds to feel ‘stressed’ and ‘anxious’.  This comes at a time in life when anxiety levels are usually at their lowest as, according to ONS data, people in their mid to late 60s feel less stressed as they start enjoying their retirement.

With one in 10 Brits aged 65-85 also providing care to others, the impact of delays and cancellations is not only felt by the individuals but by the people they care for too, with the uncertainty an additional burden to their health condition. 

While almost half (47%) of the over 60s accept that health conditions are part of later life, many have ambitions for retirement they don’t want their health to hamper, including renovating the house (22%), volunteering for charity (20%) or travelling through Europe by train (11%).  As a result of delays and cancellations to treatment, a quarter (24%) felt unable to commit to any plans.

Jonathan Davies, OBE, former Wales rugby international had a hip operation when he was 51.  He says: “I’d had problems with my hip for a number of years, but was desperate to get my life back on track and didn’t want my health to stop me doing the things I love to do.  It’s about choice, and I made mine. I booked in to have my hip operated on and nine months later I completed a cycling race I’d been wanting to do. Taking back control over your health is empowering and I’d urge everyone to explore the options available for treatment so you’re not hampered by health at a time in life when you should be making the most of it!”

There are alternatives to treatment available however, including private medical insurance and self-pay, allowing people to be proactive about their health to improve their quality of life.

We offer diagnostic tests and operations with no waiting lists in our award-winning hospitals; 94% of our hospitals are rated good or outstanding compared with an average of 70% for the independent healthcare sector.

We also offer private GP services, emotional wellbeing services and health assessments.

Last updated Wednesday 5 April 2023

First published on Friday 16 August 2019