Nuffield Trust: Wellbeing of staff must be at forefront of efforts to recover record waiting list

Sarah Scobie responds to the latest monthly NHS performance statistics from NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Press release

Published: 13/05/2021

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

“By the end of March, the waiting list had once again increased to a record level, almost 5 million people – 9% of the population in England. It is now very clear that the NHS will need much greater support from the government to aid the service and exhausted staff to work through a frightening level of postponed care.

“The number of people left waiting over a year for treatment to start is at a level not seen for 14 years. Undoing the damage caused to health and care services by the pandemic will take years, and this will have a knock-on effect on health outcomes for many people left waiting for operations to improve their quality of life.

“The NHS has been working hard to restore services even throughout the second wave. The number of MRI scans and other diagnostic tests did not dip as they did during the first wave. This was an incredible effort given the scale of hospitalisations over the winter period. However, this has put a lot of pressure on staff who have had a traumatic and difficult year. The wellbeing of NHS staff must be at the forefront of efforts to work through record waiting lists.

“New funding announced by NHS England to support pilot areas to innovate and identify ways to speed up efforts to tackle the backlog of care is welcome. But additional staff and resources will not be easy to find given the NHS will need to prioritise urgent care, remain responsive to hospitalisations for Covid and continue to roll out the vaccination programme across the population."

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