Kensington Palace announced on Wednesday (January 17th) Kate Middleton, The Princess of Wales had been admitted to hospital to undergo abdominal surgery. 

The operation, which took place at private hospital The London Clinic, was planned and said to have been “successful”.

The announcement came the same day it was revealed King Charles will undergo treatment for an enlarged prostate next week.

While the reason for the surgery is unclear, many people have taken to social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, to voice their anger at what appeared to be the royal skipping the surgery waiting list.

One X user posted: “Call me cynical but the announcement about Charles’ and Kate’s ops is more to do with gaining public sympathy for two of the least popular royals. And no hospital waiting list for them either.”

Another sarcastically penned: “Sorry to hear that Kate and Charles are having to navigate long waiting lists and overwrought staff in the NHS.”

A Meghan and Harry fan said: “If this was Meghan you’d accuse her of faking it for attention. Why hasn’t Kate been put on the waiting list for a hospital appointment like 7 million other people have?”

Even a doctor in emergency medicine, known as Dr Mike, wrote: “Kate will stay in hospital for up to 14 days after her surgery.

“Meanwhile in the NHS you have your surgery and are sent home one to two days later with a sats probe and a BP cuff and a photo of what wound infection looks like, and maybe one wound dressing.”

Dr Deborah Lee, Dr Fox Online Pharmacy, offered advice on waiting lists for surgery in the UK.

For someone seeking help on the NHS, how long could someone be waiting for surgery?

The NHS publishes information about waiting lists here.

University College London is currently stating they have a 19 week wait to be seen for the first consultation and then a 21 week wait for the operation to go ahead.

Chelsea & Westminster state 19 weeks for the first consultation and 25 weeks for the operation to go ahead.

Barts Health NHS Trust states 17 weeks for the first consultation and 23 weeks for the surgery to go ahead.

Waiting times are likely to vary greatly around the country. The longest waiting lists as of January 2023 are:

Liverpool, Aintree University – 77 weeks

Chester – Countess of Chester – 60 weeks

Birmingham – Queen Elizabeth – 58 weeks

Note that if cancer is suspected the NHS states you should be seen within two weeks and have any investigations and cancer either ruled out or confirmed within 28 days of being referred. This may or may not mean you need surgery. Patients have the right to shop around and can ask to be seen in a different hospital if waiting times there are shorter. You can check the My Planned Care website to compare waiting times at different hospitals.

If someone needed emergency surgery would they be bumped up the waiting list?

The NHS is under extreme pressure right now with high demand, staff shortage, budget constraints and is still suffering in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.

The maximum anyone should wait for treatment, which could be surgery, is 18 weeks. In August 2023 the 18 weeks target was only met for 58 percent of referrals. 7.7 million people are currently waiting for some form of NHS Consultant-led care. 8 percent of people have been waiting for treatment for 46 weeks or longer.

NHS waiting lists are managed carefully so that no one jumps the queue unless their symptoms have significantly worsened, and their clinical condition has deteriorated.

See your GP if you feel you are in this category and ask them to inform the hospital team you’ve been referred to, so they are aware and have the option of prioritising your case.

Make sure your GP has up to date, correct contact details for you so there can be no risk of appointments going astray.

It’s very normal to have tests – blood tests, X-rays and scans – while waiting on the list so the consultant has a lot of relevant information to hand when he sees you.

Also, you might benefit from seeing another health professional such as physiotherapist or a dietician while you are on the waiting list and your GP can arrange this for you.

If you can be flexible and accept a cancellation at short notice this is also to your advantage.

What is the likelihood of the Royal Family getting treatment on the NHS?

Private medicine is always an option for those who can afford it. 272,000 people in the UK paid for medical care themselves in 2022. This was an increase from 262,000 the year before. In 2022, 547,000 people used private medical insurance to fund their medical care.

It’s not surprising that more and more people are choosing to pay for healthcare when the NHS has been under so much pressure in recent years and is struggling to cope. However, it flies in the face of the 2015 NHS Constitution which states ‘the NHS should be free of charge and be freely available to everyone regardless of choices or cost’.

The Royal family are always keen to recognise the hard work of the NHS. Last year, for example, they hosted the NHS Big Tea to mark the NHS’s 75th birthday. Princess Catherine is in the London Clinic which is a private hospital. The Royal family use private healthcare most of the time, but they have used A&E for emergencies in the past.

Although she could have been referred on the NHS and waited in turn, it makes sense because of her royal status for her to take the private option.

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