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Plan to build new surgery in Harrow as backlog leaves thousands waiting more than a year for operations

A world-leading hospital in North London is looking to build a new surgery to help deal with the growing backlog of cases in the wake of the Covid pandemic. Waiting times for operations are now almost twice as long, with nearly 4,000 having to wait more than a year.

Harrow’s Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) on Brockley Hill in Stanmore, which dates back to the 1880’s and provides training to 20 per cent of all UK orthopaedic surgeons, has received funding from the Department of Health for the development to help ease the waiting times.

Orthopaedics – covering injuries to bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves – has been hit particularly hard, and it now has the longest surgical waiting list of all specialities, according to NHS trust documents. Currently, the waiting times for patients to receive surgery at RNOH has increased from around 18 weeks to as long as two years.


Pre-pandemic, there were roughly 46,000 patients waiting for an orthopaedic operation in London – with 69 patients having to wait more than 52 weeks. However, post-pandemic the number of patients waiting for operations has nearly doubled to 87,000 – with the number of those having to wait longer than a year to be seen has soared by a staggering 5,449 percent to 3,760 patients.

Plan to build new surgery in Harrow as backlog leaves thousands waiting more than a year for operations Harrow Online
Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Harrow

Secretary of State for Health, Steve Barclay, has confirmed the development must go ahead. The plan, which has also been recommended for approval by council officers, will be decided on by the Harrow Council planning committee at next week’s meeting (July 19).

If it gets the go-ahead, a new single-storey module will be built at the Brockley Hill site – comprising four surgical theatres and two recovery rooms, as well as other facilities such as staff changing rooms and toilets – and a corridor linking the building to the adjacent wards. The development is set to be a temporary medical infrastructure that would ultimately be relocated – likely in a number of years.

The RNOH NHS Trust said the plan represents an opportunity to “improve health care” at the existing hospital, with the additional four operating theatres helping to deliver “significantly reduced waiting times for surgery”.

Planning documents state that doing so will offer substantial health benefits, “particularly for more vulnerable and lower socio-economic status patients”, as well as reducing the impact on existing hospital services. Modular hubs are also said to “contribute to attracting and retaining high-quality staff” due to creating a recognised centre of excellence.

The proposed development has been described as an “inappropriate development in the Green Belt” as it would result in “limited visual harm”. However, RNOH has also provided a case of ‘Very Special Circumstances’ due to the acute need for the facility.

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