Nuffield Trust: Non-covid demand growing rapidly as NHS staff work hard to dent troubling waiting list

Deputy Director of Research Dr Sarah Scobie responds to the latest NHS performance statistics.

Press release

Published: 10/06/2021

Responding to the latest monthly NHS performance statistics from NHS England and NHS Improvement, Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Dr Sarah Scobie said:

“As lockdown measures started to ease in England once again, the number of patients waiting for treatment surged past the 5 million mark. Alongside growing waits for planned care, it is clear that urgent non-covid demand is now also growing rapidly. In May, the number of patients coming forward to accident and emergency services nearly reached levels seen before the pandemic.

“NHS staff continue to work under real pressure to get operations, tests, and treatment underway and make a dent in the troubling backlog. The number of patients waiting over a year for planned care, usually surgery, has fallen in the latest available data for April 2021, but this remains a very large number of people at risk from worsening conditions – and we know that nearly 3,000 people have waited over two years.

“Rising cases and early signs of more hospitalisations in Delta variant hotspots are a real concern. If Covid demand rises alongside growing non-covid need, the NHS will be forced again to do more with less given the reduction in bed numbers due to social distancing and ongoing staff exhaustion and shortages.”

Notes to editors

  • 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.
  • For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Simon Keen on 07780 475 571 or