🏥 New Analysis Alert! The Health Foundation reveals alarming projections for NHS waiting lists in England. If current trends persist, the waiting list for routine hospital treatment (‘elective care’) could surpass a staggering 8 million by the summer of 2024, with or without ongoing NHS industrial action.
📈 The analysis considers four potential scenarios for reducing the waiting list by the end of 2024. It suggests that, under current conditions, the list may peak at 8 million by August 2024 without further strikes. If strikes continue, it could be even higher by 180,000.
💼 Industrial action by consultants and junior doctors has already contributed to an increase of approximately 210,000 patients in the waiting list. This represents just 3% of the overall list, which stood at 7.75 million at the end of August 2023. The analysis also highlights the indirect impacts of strikes, including financial strain on the NHS and diverted attention from productivity improvements.
📣 Tackling the NHS waiting list is a top government priority, with NHS England's elective care recovery plan aiming for a decrease by March 2024. However, as of January 2023, the waiting list was at 7.2 million, making this pledge challenging.
💡 The analysis introduces better and worse case scenarios, with only the best-case scenario showing a reduction in the waiting list to the level at the time of the Prime Minister's pledge by the end of 2024. None of the scenarios align with the elective care recovery plan's expectations.
🔄 While monthly referrals for treatment have returned to pre-pandemic levels and are growing at a faster rate, the waiting list continues to expand as the number of treatments provided still lags behind the number of referrals.
❗ The analysis also acknowledges potential disruptions in efforts to reduce the waiting list, such as new waves of COVID-19 or a severe winter flu season, as well as cutbacks to hospital care due to financial constraints.
🗣️ Charles Tallack, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, emphasizes that addressing the waiting list crisis requires sustained focus, policy action, and investment, as it's not solely attributable to industrial action but also reflects long-term issues like underinvestment, staff shortages, and social care neglect.