FREE online spine assessment

NHS waiting times for back pain and spine care. Should I be worried?

NHS waiting times for back pain and spine care

Lately it has become difficult to watch the news, pick up a newspaper or go online without hearing about problems and concerns in the NHS and waiting times for care.

Waiting List Should Be 18 Weeks But Since Lockdown Is Growing

Since the first lock down in the pandemic, waiting lists for treatment have grown longer and economic pressures have increased.

According to NHS England, the maximum waiting time for commencement of non-urgent, consultant led treatments should be 18 weeks. This is taken from the time the hospital has received your referral letter. The exceptions include any delays because of any other illnesses or co-morbidities you may need addressing sooner.

Many cases improve without surgery so the sooner you can access help, the sooner you can get back to activities

In the context of back pain, neck pain, sciatica and radiculopathy (nerve pain in one or more limbs), the pathway outlined in many regions is to be assessed by a musculoskeletal physiotherapist (MSK) before any referral is made to a consultant spine surgeon.

This is because most patients will improve with non-invasive measures (e.g. lifestyle modifications and core strength training).

NHS waiting times for back pain and spine care

Study shows surgery within 6 months of symptoms leads to better outcomes

A smaller proportion of patients, who have failed these measures, will require an onward referral to a consultant spine surgeon and it is only when this referral is received that the 18 week countdown begins. Unfortunately many patients are not getting seen within this time frame.

The majority of patients will notice improvement within 3 months, without any invasive intervention. If you happen to have sciatica (leg pain often caused by nerve compression in your spine), with a scan confirming compression and the symptoms have surpassed 3 months, then imaging of your spine is advised.

A recent study has shown that patients achieve the best results when decompression of the nerve is carried out within 6 months of the onset symptoms, so delaying treatment in this category of patients will have poorer results.

So an early diagnosis is important.

So an early diagnosis is important.

NHS waiting times for back pain and spine care
NHS waiting times for back pain and spine care

Rare situations that may need urgent treatment and should not be delayed - these are the signs to look out for

If you are experiencing a progressive neurological deficit such as weakness in one or both of your legs, your general practitioner should make the referral more urgent. If you experience any urinary symptoms (loss of feeling of your bladder and difficulty initiating urination, or incontinence) you should seek attention immediately.


My Mission - the least invasive treatment that offers the longest lasting result.

It is my mission to get to the cause of your pain as quickly as possible and offer the least invasive treatment that offers the longest lasting result.

I have therefore tried to create a simple, cost effective pathway in my practice to do this with my one-stop clinic.

Traditionally in the private sector, patients pay for an initial consultation, then pay for a scan and thereafter pay for the follow up to go over the scan results and formulate a treatment plan. My one-stop clinic makes this simpler, by offering a free telephone call to attain some details to book the most appropriate scan. Once you have had the scan I then see you in a formal face to face consultation, where I carry out a more concise assessment, show you your scans and formulate a plan.

Even at this stage, not all patients require surgery and some patients can still be managed with physiotherapy or manual therapy (osteopathy or chiropractic). However, I have noticed that patients often feel left alone when they are simply asked to seek a physiotherapist (either via their GP or self-refer).

That is why my vision is to be recognised as a leading practice, working with colleagues of all disciplines of spine care to deliver the highest standard of care and patient experience.

My multidisciplinary approach means that I have got together with other professionals (physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and pain specialists) in Kent and Essex to offer packages of care that are under my oversight. The therapy they offer is guided by my interpretation of your scans and direct discussion with them. They liaise with me during your care and as part of the package you get a follow up discussion with me to see your progress and if any intervention is required.

Get more information about the diagnostic and care packages I offer.

Finally if a procedure is required I seek the least invasive method that offers the longest lasting result. I have specialised in minimally invasive surgery and have focussed on making each traditional procedure less invasive over time. This means, less trauma to the surrounding tissues, less risk and quicker recovery.

If you would like to find out more please contact us.

Alternatively you can email me or call me on 020 8088 1222

Contact Us

Back to Patient Information

Our Locations

With our head office located in Northampton, we have access to a network of clinic locations throughout the UK.

In addition to face-to-face appointments, we also offer remote video consultations. Many hospitals have set up secure video consultation access via popular video platforms such as MS Teams or Zoom, and if required the appointment staff can help you to set up these consultations.

Head Office

The Spine MDT Ltd

1 Rushmills
Bedford Road

Primary Clinic Locations

BMI - London Independent Hospital
1 Beaumont Square, London, E1 4NL

BMI - Chelsfield Park Hospital
Private Consultations and Surgery
Bucks Cross Rd, Chelsfield, Orpington, BR6 7RG

Spire - Hartswood Brentwood
Private Consultations and Surgery
Eagle Way, Warley, Brentwood, CM13 3LE