People needing a knee or hip replacement face significantly different waiting time lengths depending on where they live and when they begin their wait, a new report suggests.
Researchers from the Medical Technology Group have reported a 'pronounced postcode lottery'; with patients in some areas waiting up to a month longer for operations than others elsewhere.
The report also shows that over the last decade thousands more joint replacement operations have been carried out in March - the final month of the financial year - than in April.
Financial-calendar led allocation of procedures 'highly unlikely to be the best model'
Patients in London typically waited 121 days for surgery last year, compared to the 91 or 93 days people in the East Midlands waited for a hip or knee replacement respectively.
The last decade has seen a 92% increase in the number of NHS-conducted hip and knee replacement operations, the report found, with 140,000 carried out last year alone. This makes them among the most common medical interventions now seen in the UK.
However, the report also found that over the last 10 years 49,351 knee replacements have been performed in March - 13% more than the 42,944 undertaken in April.
It is vital that the Government stops these restrictions
There was also an 11% difference noted in the number of hip procedures performed in these months, with 46,501 in March and 41,519 in April.
It suggests health trusts forecasting an end-of-year under-spend are 'incentivised' to spend up to their delegated limit and carry out additional procedures in March.
It adds: 'This financial-calendar led allocation of procedures is highly unlikely to be the best model through which to fund equitable and consistent healthcare.'
The report says patients starting their wait for a new hip or knee just before Christmas will face a shorter wait than those beginning just after the festive period.
The group's chairman, Barbara Harpham, said: 'If you need a new hip or knee, it shouldn't matter when in the year it is, or where in the country you live.
'There is a postcode lottery and a time-of-year lottery, and it isn't good enough for patients. It is vital that the Government stops restrictions on knees and hip operations for people who need them.'
Copyright Press Association 2013