Long waits for care are a 'timely reality check on the challenges facing NHS services': The King's Fund responds to September's monthly NHS hospital activity figures

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Commenting on the latest NHS hospital activity figures, Gbemi Babalola, Senior Analyst at The King’s Fund, said:

‘The long waits for care highlighted by these figures are a timely reality check on the challenges facing NHS services as they get back up and running and work through the backlog of patients who need support.

‘Significant effort is going into new ways to treat and support patients, such as more virtual consultations, and redesigning waiting rooms and clinical areas to reduce the risk of infection. But the reality is that many frontline NHS staff are physically and emotionally exhausted by the Covid-19 pandemic, new safety restrictions mean some treatments and procedures take longer to deliver, and there are indications that patients remain hesitant to use some face-to-face NHS services, a phenomenon likely to persist as coronavirus infection rates rise again. As it stands, the nationally set targets for the recovery of NHS performance seem very ambitious.

‘NHS staff are working hard to restore services to full capacity, and help is available when people need urgent care and treatment. At the same time, there needs to be honesty about what is achievable, and recognition that, as we head into the traditionally challenging winter months, long waits for routine diagnostic and surgical procedures are likely to be here to stay.’

Notes to editors

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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.