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Think tank claims NHS waiting list could reach 10 million by April

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Waiting lists for NHS surgery in England could hit 10 million by April, a think tank has claimed while calling for NHS hospitals to use more private sector capacity to reduce delays for patients.

In a new report the right-wing think tank Reform said the worst case scenario for patient waits could see one in six people in England waiting for treatment by April. It said the impact of coronavirus had turned the NHS into a “national Covid service” with six million fewer referrals for treatment in 2020.

It warned the delays in treatments could have dire consequences for patients with an estimated 1,660 additional lung cancer deaths.

But NHS bosses have hit back at the report saying it is inaccurate to say the NHS focused only on Covid, and that despite widespread cancellations it has continued to treat other patients.

Predictions that the NHS waiting list would hit 10 million were made last year and proved wrong after hospitals ramped up routine services during the summer – although the second wave of the virus has again led to widespread cancellations including for surgery patients.

The new Reform report claims capacity in private sector hospitals, where NHS England has secured new contracts to take on additional work during the Covid surge, have not been effectively used.

The think tank wants NHS England to mandate the publication of ‘waiting list recovery plans’ by NHS trusts setting out how each hospital will use the private sector.

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Source: The Independent, 17 February 2021

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