Patients already seeing huge change in NHS, with unthinkable rise in numbers waiting longer than a year for treatment

Nigel Edwards responds to the latest NHS England and NHS Improvement monthly performance figures.

Press release

Published: 11/02/2021

Responding to the latest NHS England and NHS Improvement monthly performance figures, Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Nigel Edwards said:

“While today there is plenty of focus on the proposals to reform how the NHS will be run in the future, patients will not see these changes in practice for some time, if they even notice them at all.

“It is the here and now where patients are seeing a huge and uncomfortable change. The latest waiting time figures show over 220,000 people waiting longer than a year to start NHS routine surgery or treatment – an unthinkable rise from this time last year and the highest number in over 12 years.

“We are now seeing Covid cases falling nationally and hospitalisations finally coming down, albeit slowly, from this deadly second wave of the pandemic. But hospitals are still exceptionally busy. There will be no flick of a switch to enable staff to work through this expanding backlog. Allowing healthcare staff the time to recover, ongoing infection control and the most extensive vaccination rollout in history, which may need to be extended to tackle variants, does, unfortunately, mean trade-offs will be here to stay for some years.

“Away from reform, the government will need to level with the public and be frank about how slowly health services can realistically recover and in turn, what the public can reasonably expect from their NHS.”

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