Nuffield Trust: Record waiting list and major backlog of postponed care will set the NHS back years

Sarah Scobie responds to the latest NHS monthly performance statistics.

Press release

Published: 15/04/2021

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

“With waiting lists now at the highest number since records began, it is clear that the NHS has been set back years as it faces a battle to clear these major backlogs of postponed care. Returning to the levels of activity seen before March last year will not be enough to meet demand, and we will continue to live with coronavirus for years to come.

“Nearly one in ten patients (8%) are now waiting longer than a year for routine treatment or operations, and these are the highest numbers seen since 2007. We shouldn’t underestimate the strain this is putting on these patients who need this treatment. But with hospitals and staff working under intense pressure amid the second spike in hospitalisations, it is no surprise that elective care had to be pulled back.

“Healthcare staff have made huge sacrifices during this pandemic, but more will be asked of them on the path to recovery. That is concerning when the latest NHS staff survey results in England show that more of them working in Covid-settings have suffered illness from work-related stress. Ensuring the wellbeing of staff must be an integral part of any credible long-term recovery plan.”

Notes to editors

  • The latest monthly combined performance figures from NHS England can be found at:
  • 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