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NHS waiting list recovery ‘could take years’ report reveals

NHS waiting lists will take more than three years to be reduced to pre-pandemic levels, according to a new analysis.

Despite recent reductions in the waiting list in England, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank said that it is “unlikely that waiting lists will reach pre-pandemic levels” by December 2027 – even under a “best-case scenario”.

The latest figures show that the waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England has fallen for the third month in a row.

An estimated 7.6 million treatments were waiting to be carried out at the end of December, relating to 6.37 million patients, down slightly from 7.61 million treatments and 6.39 million patients at the end of November, according to NHS England figures.

Cutting NHS waiting lists is one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s top priorities. However, the PM admitted earlier this month he would not meet his promise to reduce waiting lists.

However, the new IFS analysis highlights how the NHS waiting list was already growing before the pandemic, but it rose “rapidly” during the crisis. The IFS report suggests a range of scenarios about how the waiting list could look in December 2024.

Under a “more pessimistic scenario”, waiting lists will remain at the same elevated level while an “optimistic scenario” would see them fall to 5.2 million by December 2027.


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