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Forget the pandemic, NHS decline is ‘to blame for record waiting lists’

PUBLISHED

Record NHS waiting lists cannot be attributed to the pandemic as the health service has been “steadily declining” for a decade, a report says.

The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England has almost tripled from 2.5 million in April 2012 to 6.78 million, after reaching 4.6 million in February 2020.

While Covid accelerated this trend, analysis suggests that even without the pandemic waiting lists for elective care would stand at 5.3 million.

The Quality Watch report, by the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation think tanks, says the NHS was “already stretched beyond its limits” before Covid struck.

Analysis of performance figures show waiting times for scans, A&E and cancer care have been increasing for many years amid chronic staff shortages.

This deterioration means thousands of cancer patients each month face unacceptably long waits for treatment — damaging their survival chances.

The report found waiting times for 15 key diagnostic tests, such as MRI or CT scans, had also rocketed. In April 2012 632,236 patients were on waiting lists for these tests. This backlog increased to one million by February 2020 before hitting 1.6 million this year.

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Source: The Times, 5 September 2022

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