Waiting times rise as NHS recovery hits the Covid wall – Nuffield Trust

John Appleby responds to today's performance data from NHS England.

Press release

Published: 08/10/2020

Responding to today's performance data from NHS England, Nuffield Trust Chief Economist John Appleby said:

“Despite an ambitious drive to get back to seeing close to the usual number of patients, today’s figures appear to show the NHS recovery hitting a wall. Outpatient visits and diagnostic tests fell slightly in August – something that may be partly seasonal, but certainly does not suggest a rapid return to normal. Staff will be working exceptionally hard, but as we warned earlier in the year, the need for social distancing and infection control is unavoidably slowing the service down.[2]

“As a result, the waiting list for planned treatment has increased in August to over 4.2 million, and the number of people waiting over 52 weeks in England has continued to surge to 111,026, the most in 12 years.

“There are also early signs of an impending second wave. The number of people coming to A&E had been going back up again, but that has now come to a halt, suggesting rising caution. Meanwhile, calls to 111 are on the rise. This is similar to the reactions we saw during the first big outbreak of Covid-19 in March.”

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. Our recent report Here to Stay examined why the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to slow productivity in the NHS for as long as the disease remains a significant risk.
  3. NHS England's performance data covers August for planned care and September for urgent care: it can be seen on their website here.
  4. For any queries or to arrange an interview, please contact Mark Dayan at mark.dayan@nuffieldtrust.org.uk / 07920 043 844