Story of two halves as NHS struggles to shake off effects of coronavirus

Nigel Edwards responds to the latest NHS combined performance figures.

Press release

Published: 09/07/2020

Responding to the NHS combined performance figures from NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust, Nigel Edwards, said:

“These figures show that across the board the health service is struggling to shake off the effects of coronavirus. While more people came forward for emergency care last month, we are still a long way off pre-pandemic levels.

“The NHS is trying hard to restart routine activity, alongside the reduction of national lockdown measures. But while it maintains Covid-19 safety measures, it cannot possibly do this fast enough and clear various bottlenecks throughout the system.

“The waiting list has fallen to the lowest level in two years, but the reasons behind it are not to be celebrated. Fewer patients are being added due to under half the normal levels of referrals from GPs, and the number of routine operations being carried out once patients are referred is down by around 50%. Cancer statistics are even more concerning, with a huge drop in patients starting treatment after a screening test in May to less than a third of usual levels. The result is a story of two halves: growing unmet need outside of the system and much longer for waits for those inside.

“Even before the pandemic the NHS could not catch its breath and meet the demand upon it. It is becoming ever clearer that it will not be able to go back to business as usual.”

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