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How Covid has dealt the NHS a lasting blow

The NHS in England has more funding and staff than before the pandemic - but in many types of care, it is treating fewer patients. Why?

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says this is a puzzle with no simple explanation - but the pandemic has dealt a lasting blow to the NHS and it could be costing more to treat patients, on average, than before.

Despite higher staff sickness rates, compared with pre-pandemic levels, the NHS has available to work:

  • 8% more nurses
  • 9% more consultants
  • 15% more junior doctors.

But - not counting those filled by patients who have tested positive for Covid, even though they may be there mainly for something else - there were 5% fewer beds available in the third quarter of this year than in 2019, the IFS says.

IFS research economist Max Warner says: "The NHS is showing clear signs of strain heading into the winter and is treating fewer patients than it was pre-pandemic, across many types of care.

"The real risk, almost three years on from the start of the pandemic, is that the Covid hit to NHS performance is not time-limited.

"Going forward, we need to grapple with the possibility that the health service is just able to treat fewer patients with the same level of resources."

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "As the IFS report acknowledges, Covid had a significant impact on the NHS, and we are focused on delivering the biggest catch-up programme in health history".

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Source: BBC News, 14 December 2022


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