Nuffield Trust: Meaningful standards needed to be upfront with patients about pace of NHS recovery

Sarah Scobie responds to the Public Accounts Committee report on NHS backlogs and waiting times in England.

Press release

Published: 16/03/2022

Responding to the Public Accounts Committee report NHS backlogs and waiting times in England, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Sarah Scobie said:

“Over the last decade, there have been many loud and clear warnings about the gradual deterioration in access to health and care services. Sadly, the impact of growing waiting lists is felt most by the patients who, even before the pandemic, were already waiting too long for life-changing treatment.

“The seismic impact of the pandemic, on top of the NHS’s starting position going into the crisis, in terms of beds, staff numbers and available equipment, means current waiting targets won’t be met any time soon.

“We need to have meaningful and achievable standards and be upfront with the public about the pace of NHS recovery following the huge shock of the pandemic. While it is right that MPs highlight the need for the government to hold NHS leaders to account, the health service needs to focus on improving patient care and eradicating backlogs rather than reporting more metrics.

“Most concerning is the fact that we know that things are set to get worse before they can get better. Staffing shortages and the effect of the pandemic on their wellbeing have no quick fixes, and plans set out to boost the number of operations and procedures the NHS can carry out lean heavily on this exhausted workforce.”

Notes to editors