Brits say waiting on the NHS has a detrimental effect on mental health

New research released today reveals one in 10 Brits over the age of 60 have waited almost half a year for an operation or diagnostic test on the NHS with one in three saying the wait impacted on their mental health. There was also an emotional cost to waiting – for the individual and their family - according to the results.

The survey, commissioned by not-for-profit healthcare provider, Nuffield Health, found British adults aged 60+, waiting for an operation felt “vulnerable”, “scared”, “anxious” and “stressed”, with one in three saying they put their lives on hold as a result. A fifth also reported deterioration in their health while waiting.

Waiting can also have a detrimental effect on personal relationships with one in 10 losing interest in sex while waiting for a diagnostic test or operation.

With NHS waiting lists growing for both diagnostic tests and many commonly performed surgical procedures involving hips, knees, hearts and joints, there are alternatives available for treatment.  Private medical insurance is one, but people can also choose self-pay; meaning people can get their life back to normal more quickly and reduce the physical and emotional cost of waiting.

Having had a hip replacement, Olympic medallist and javelin thrower, Steve Backley OBE knows the importance of dealing with health issues to get life back on track: “Anyone who has waited for a medical test or procedure will know that during this time, your life is on hold. Your health is your greatest asset, so it’s no surprise to see 64% of people rating their health as more important than happiness and wealth.

“I was in pain for years before my hip operation and the pain was preventing me from exercising, running after the kids and doing the things I love. I wasn’t able to fully participate in family life. Life after my hip operation has been full of new challenges and experiences that I would have missed out on. I would encourage anyone waiting for a medical procedure to explore all options to get your life back on track as soon as possible.”

Brits also said the wait made them less fun to be around (19%) and left them feeling anxious and short-tempered (14%). 31% also said they “didn’t feel like themselves” while waiting with 20% “unable to focus on the here and now”.

Findings also showed the wider impact of waiting on family and friends: for one in three people waiting for an operation or diagnostic test, the wait had a negative impact on their families. One in 10 also reported having to take time off work, cancel social engagements or postpone holidays


Nuffield Health offers diagnostic tests and operations with no waiting lists. The most recent report from the Care Quality Commission (England’s independent regulator of health and social care services) saw 94% of Nuffield Health hospitals rated good or outstanding compared with an average of 70% for the independent healthcare sector.

Nuffield Health also offers Private GP services, Health Assessments and Recovery Plus – a service which brings together a spectrum of healthcare services across Nuffield Health’s Hospitals and Fitness & Wellbeing Clubs.

To find out more please visit https://www.nuffieldhealth.com/hospitals, or call 0300 123 1995.

Regionally speaking…

·         Most people waiting for Cardiology surgery/diagnostic test are based in the North West – 16% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Orthopaedic surgery/diagnostic test are based in Wales – 22% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Oncology (cancer) surgery/diagnostic test are based in the North East – 17% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Respiratory surgery/diagnostic test are based in Northern Ireland– 14% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Urology surgery/diagnostic test are based in Northern Ireland – 10% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Ophthalmology surgery/diagnostic test are based in Scotland– 14% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Audiology surgery/diagnostic test are based in Wales – 9% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Neurology surgery/diagnostic test are based in the South East – 5% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Dermatology surgery/diagnostic test are based in the North East – 8% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for Gastroenterology surgery/diagnostic test are based in the Northern Ireland – 14% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for renal surgery/diagnostic test are based in the East Midlands – 5% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.

·         Most people waiting for a Psychiatric test are based in Wales – 4% of over 60s surveyed in the region are waiting for/ have waited for this.


About the research

The survey was carried out on behalf of Nuffield Health by OnePoll.  1,000 Brits aged 60+ who have waited for an operation or diagnostic test on the NHS were surveyed online between 18th April and 23rd April 2018.

Last updated Wednesday 30 May 2018