The King's Fund submission to the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into NHS backlogs and waiting times

This content relates to the following topics:

The Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the NHS backlog and waiting times is timely and important. Elective care waiting lists were growing and performance targets being routinely missed before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, the situation has significantly deteriorated, and will continue to worsen, as more people wait for treatment and wait longer than they did before the pandemic.

Tackling the backlog will be a huge operational challenge at a time when hospitals are still treating patients with Covid-19, adopting measures to limit infections in care settings and supporting exhausted staff who need time to recover. This will inevitably have an impact on productivity and the amount of health care that can be delivered in the near future. In this submission, we focus on elective care and examine five key questions:

  • Before the pandemic, what were the root causes of the NHS’s deteriorating performance against the standards required for waiting times for elective care and cancer services?
  • What did the NHS do well and what could it have done better in providing elective care and cancer services during the pandemic?
  • What are the biggest challenges faced by local healthcare providers in recovering performance on waiting times for elective care and cancer services?
  • How should the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England support local providers to recover their performance?
  • Are plans and funding announced to date enough to help the system recover or, if not, what in our view is still missing?

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