'Covid-19 has redrawn the scale of the challenge facing the NHS': The King's Fund comments on the latest NHS performance statistics

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Commenting on the latest NHS performance statistics, Deborah Ward, Senior Analyst at The King’s Fund, said: 

‘The fact that we now need to measure the number of people waiting for two years for treatment shows how Covid-19 has redrawn the scale of the challenge facing the NHS. For the first time since current records began there are now more than 5 million people in England waiting for treatment to start, nearly 3,000 of whom have already been waiting for more than two years.  

‘Despite the huge pressure the pandemic has put on the NHS, the number of people waiting for more than a year has fallen for the first time since February 2020 and is now 385,490, down more than 50,000 on the previous month. Staff have achieved this despite the number of people going to A&E departments starting to return to pre-Covid-19 levels, after having dropped during the pandemic as resources shifted to fighting Covid-19 and people stayed at home. 

‘Two years is too long for anyone to be expected to wait for care. For those with more severe conditions, long waits could mean months spent in increasing pain or facing the prospect that treatment will be less effective. There’s no quick fix, as the NHS tries to tackle the backlog, manage new patients and cope with staff shortages and an exhausted workforce. The government needs to be honest with patients about the time it will take to bring waiting lists under control, and look at a long-term plan for how to give the NHS the resources it needs to sustainably bring down the backlog and provide support for people who will be waiting longer for care.’

Notes to editors

The number of people waiting more than 2 years was 2,722 in April 2021. 

The number of people waiting of more than a year was 385,490 in April 2021, down 50,637 since March 2021. 

The total number of people on the waiting list in April 2021 was 5.12 million. 

In May 2021 were 2,080,174 A&E attendances and 543,754 emergency admissions similar to levels in May 2019. Compared to May 2020, there were 818,337 more A&E attendances and 145,348 more emergency admissions.   

For further information, or to request an interview, please contact the Press and Public Affairs team on 07584 146035 or mediaoffice@kingsfund.org.uk