Nuffield Trust: Covid and backlog pressure on NHS causing alarming situation in emergency care

Sarah Scobie responds to the latest NHS monthly performance statistics.

Press release

Published: 12/08/2021

Responding to the latest NHS monthly performance stats, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Dr Sarah Scobie said:

“The latest data shows the situation in urgent care in the NHS is deteriorating alarmingly. The number of people seeking emergency care from A&E units remains high during the summer months. Worryingly, the waits for those attending A&E are beyond the levels seen even in the worst winters for the NHS, with 22% waiting longer than four hours. Waits for people needing a hospital bed are the worst for any July on record.

“With beds taken out of the system due to Covid-19 and staff stretched because of isolation requests, the impact on quality of care for people needing to be admitted to hospital is likely to be significant.

“Bottlenecks in A&E are having a knock-on impact on ambulance services too. One in ten people with severe conditions like heart attacks and strokes are waiting twice as long as expected and well over an hour in some cases. These waits must be incredibly distressing for patients and staff, and longer delays create even more pressure on hospital services too.

“While, thankfully, Covid-19 cases have not reached the feared highs, this has provided little relief to staff who remain incredibly stretched given the pent-up demand boiling away. The number of people now waiting to start treatment is nearly five and a half million – the first time it has reached this record level. It will take many years to clear this still growing backlog unless the services can boost resources to support these efforts.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.
  2. The latest monthly combined performance figures from NHS England can be found at:
  3. For all queries or to arrange an interview, contact:
    1. Simon Keen: 07780 475571 /; or
    2. Meesha Patel: 07920 043676 /