Waiting list figures show there is no shortcut back to normal for the NHS - Nuffield Trust

Nuffield Trust Deputy Director of Research Dr Sarah Scobie responds to the latest NHS performance figures.

Press release

Published: 13/08/2020

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

“These figures are a serious warning against any hope that the English NHS can get planned care back to normal before winter hits. The number of patients starting outpatient treatment is still a third lower than usual, and getting back to 100% by September will be a tall order.   

“The increase in patients waiting more than a year has continued to accelerate at a shocking pace, with numbers now at their highest since 2009 and sixteen times higher than they were in March. The proportion of people starting cancer treatment within two months of problems being identified at a screening service has plummeted from over 80% to just 13% - a total of just 48 people were treated on time across England, compared to over a thousand a month last year.  

“Unfortunately, despite the real determination of staff to get back on track, some of these problems are set to grow. Our analysis shows that the recovery in the number of patients being referred for treatment is now happening faster than the recovery in the numbers actually treated. That will push the waiting list higher. We need to be honest that with vital infection control measures affecting productivity, and a huge backlog, there are no shortcuts back to the way things were.”  

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. Today’s data on NHS activity and performance has been published by NHS England and can be seen on their website linked from this page across different areas.

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