Waiting times for tests and treatment not related to COVID-19 are likely to increase significantly in the second half of 2020 because of the fallout from the pandemic, the head of NHS England has acknowledged.
Giving evidence to the Commons health select committee on 30 June, NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens said that contrary to some commentary, the NHS’s overall waiting list actually dropped by over half a million people between February and April 2020 because fewer people were coming forward for treatment.
But, he added, “As referrals return we expect that will go up significantly over the second half of the year.”
Stevens said that there were 725 000 fewer elective admissions to NHS hospitals during March and April, but that number has begun to recover significantly. “As we speak, we think we’re now somewhere north of 55% of pre-covid-19 elective activity levels,” he said. He added that he hoped the NHS would return to around three quarters of normal activity levels by July or August.
Stevens told MPs that the NHS would pursue a range of measures to increase capacity over the coming months, including extending the deal with the private sector to use its facilities, and repurposing some of the Nightingale hospitals for diagnostic testing.
Source: BMJ, 1 July 2020
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