Nuffield Trust: NHS firefighting on multiple fronts as Delta hospitalisations grow

Nigel Edwards responds to the latest monthly NHS performance statistics and the GP Patient Survey for 2021.

Press release

Published: 08/07/2021

Responding to the latest NHS monthly performance stats and the GP Patient Survey for 2021, Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Nigel Edwards said:

“NHS staff are valiantly firefighting on multiple fronts. Exploding case numbers of the Delta variant are already leading to an uptick in hospitalisations, and non-covid demand has rebounded significantly, with A&E units feeling the heat. This demand comes as staff work hard to make a dent in a growing and frightening backlog of care.

“Data for June shows the number of people using NHS accident and emergency services has exceeded pre-pandemic levels. While A&E is often busy in Summer, it is worrying that nearly one in five people are waiting over 4 hours to be admitted or discharged. Waits of this length are typically seen in the peak of winter. Staffing pressures, covid measures and the seriousness of conditions may all be contributing to growing waits at A&E.

“The total waiting list has now grown to a record 5.3m people. This continued growth shows we are yet to reach the peak of pent up and put-off demand. GP patient survey data for 2021 is an indication of the number of people staying away from health services during the pandemic. 42% of respondents avoided making an appointment, with one in five worried about putting additional pressure on services and staff.

“The new health secretary has stated that tackling the NHS backlog is a top priority for him, but with the risk of 100,000 new covid cases a day within the next few weeks, there will be an inevitable and significant demand for Covid-19 hospital beds. Efforts to catch up on waiting lists will be slowed, and more people will sadly end up waiting even longer for the care they need. The situation is becoming ever more serious and I am very concerned about the impact this has on both patients and staff given the pressures they are under.”

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. The GP Patient Survey can be found at:
  4. For all queries or to arrange an interview, contact:
    1. Simon Keen: 07780 475571 /; or
    2. Meesha Patel: 07920 043676 /