Early signs of flattening but long way to go to bring down record waits

Sarah Scobie responds to the latest NHS performance statistics by NHS England.

Press release

Published: 09/11/2023

Responding to the latest NHS performance statistics published by NHS England, Nuffield Trust Acting Director of Research Dr Sarah Scobie said:

“The latest figures show yet another rise in the total waiting list to 7.77 million, made up of around 6.5 million people. This is a huge number of people, equivalent to one in nine of the population in England waiting for important treatment or care.

“The total waiting list is still way above where it was when the Prime Minister made his pledge to bring down waiting times at the beginning of this year. There is still a long way to go, but the smaller rise in the waiting list in September could be the first promising signs that progress is being made to flatten the waiting list.

“The real test will be whether this flattening can be sustained given the upcoming winter demand and the loosening of the elective recovery target set by NHS England. The funding announced yesterday will paper over some of the holes in this year’s NHS budget rather than boost any services over the almost certainly busy months ahead.

“The latest data covering urgent and emergency care in NHS hospitals has a worrying familiarity, with 12-hour trolley waits for hospital beds at similar levels to this time last year. Given the severe difficulties we saw last year throughout hospitals and ambulance services, this could be an ominous sign about the resilience of services if confronted with another rapid surge in demand or further strike action.”

Notes to editors