Long waits for care set to continue for many months to come: The King's Fund comments on monthly performance data

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Commenting on the monthly performance data on accident and emergency, referral to treatment and diagnostics, Gbemi Babalola, Senior Analyst at The King’s Fund, said:

‘Covid-19 has devasted many lives and dealt a body blow to NHS and social care services. Today’s data shows there are now more than 50,000 people who have been waiting for more than a year for their treatment to begin – nearly double the number seen last month and four times higher than at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many more are facing long waits to access the care they need, with only half (52 per cent) of people receiving treatment within the 18-week target. 

‘Today’s figures paint a grim picture for cancer patients, with six of eight targets for cancer treatment missed and the number of people undergoing screening within the 62-days target standing at just 13 per cent, compared with 85 per cent for the same time last year. 

‘The number of people attending accident and emergency (A&E) is below pre-Covid levels, yet in July the four-hour waiting times standard was not met, with 92 per cent being treated on time. The number of people advised to go to A&E by NHS 111 has risen by nearly a third since last year. As the NHS develops plans to require people to call before attending A&E, it will be important to make sure that the 111 service has enough clinical staff to assess callers’ needs, which will be challenging when staff are already stretched thin.

‘The sheer scale of pent up demand for healthcare services and the ongoing challenges facing staff during the pandemic mean there is a long and difficult road ahead. Health and care leaders are already bracing for an intense winter spike in demand, and patients should expect long waits for care to continue for many months and maybe years to come.’

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.