The National Audit Office has published a report (NHS backlogs and waiting times in
England) stating patient backlogs could soar to 12 million by early 2025.
The report explores waiting times for elective and cancer care in the health service in
England, and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on them. You’re needed now, more
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is said that the NHS was doing “more work year-on-year,
but the demand for its services was increasing even faster.” Post-pandemic, it’s been
encouraged to redirect resources to treat patients with the virus and to implement
infection, prevention, and control (IPC) measures.
The disruption due to the pandemic has led to strain on bed capacity and increased the wait
time for treatment for illnesses not related to the virus. As of September 2021, there were
5.83 million patients on the waiting list for elective care. 1.95 million of said patients had
been waiting for more than 18 weeks, including 301,000 who had been waiting for more
than 12 months, stated the NAO.
Due to the pandemic and increased demands from the NHS, it is believed that “millions” of
people have avoided visiting health care professionals or have been unsuccessful in
obtaining referrals. Furthermore, the NAO have estimated there were between 240,000 and
740,000 “missing” urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer during the pandemic.
Hospitals’ efforts to stop the waiting list rising from its current 5.83 million will be
disadvantaged by the NHS having fewer beds and skilled staff, the NAO added. That could
prevent it from being able to keep up with the growing numbers of people likely to end up
on it in future.
An NHS England spokesperson said: “Treating more than half a million patients in hospital
for Covid, as well as delivering a world-leading vaccination programme, has inevitably had
an impact on some routine and non-urgent care. Yet since the pandemic began the NHS has
performed millions of elective procedures and over 450,000 people have started treatment
The NHS is facing a “daunting” task in operating on all those awaiting surgery and reducing
the long waits for care many people are now facing – the demand for healthcare workers is