This paper considers the phenomenon of waiting lists in a healthcare setting, which is characterised by limitations on the national expenditure, to explore the potentials of an operations management perspective. A reference framework for waiting list management is described, distinguishing different levels of planning in healthcare – national, regional, hospital and process – that each contributes to the existence of waiting lists through managerial decision making. In addition, different underlying mechanisms in demand and supply are distinguished, which together explain the development of waiting lists. It is our contention that within this framework a series of situation specific models should be designed to support communication and decision making. This is illustrated by the modelling of the demand for cataract treatment in a regional setting in the south-eastern part of the Netherlands. An input–output model was developed to support decisions regarding waiting lists. The model projects the demand for treatment at a regional level and makes it possible to evaluate waiting list impacts for different scenarios to meet this demand.