Patients waiting for treatment face difficult journey as NHS recovery challenge grows

Sarah Scobie responds to the latest winter situation reports data and monthly performance statistics.

Press release

Published: 13/01/2022

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

“The situation on the ground right now across health and care services illustrates the incredibly difficult journey faced by patients waiting for treatment, and by staff in NHS and care services, given the waiting list has now reached the once unthinkable 6 million mark.

“The latest data shows substantial and damaging levels of staff absences. On average, over 88,500 staff were absent every day across NHS hospitals in the week ending 9 January, an increase of 10% from the previous week. Absences of this scale are impacting the availability of staff and beds, as well as the safe and effective running of services. But Omicron and its rapid spread is not only affecting hospital staff. Hospitals are finding it more difficult to discharge medically-well patients into the community and find beds for patients from A&E units.

“Behind the severe difficulties that NHS staff are grappling with here and now, including rota gaps and increased Covid demand from hospitalisations and the vaccine rollout, the huge task of recovering planned care continues to grow. The system is running on a depleted and exhausted workforce and does not have the flex to make meaningful progress on clearing the backlog or reducing waits across urgent care services with so many demands placed on it.”

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. For all queries or to arrange an interview, contact Simon Keen: 07780 475571/; or Meesha Patel: 07920 043676 /