Waiting lists of more than a year for NHS treatment ‘are here to stay’

Waiting lists of more than a year for NHS treatment could remain ‘for some years,’ health bosses have told Boris Johnson

A letter from the NHS Confederation warned the Prime Minister that healthcare unrelated to coronavirus will most likely not resume at the speed it did last year due to the harsh impact of the second wave.    

The note, seen by The Times, also claimed a ‘zero-tolerance approach to patients waiting longer than 52 weeks for their planned treatments’ was no longer realistic amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS England data published last month shows 4.46million people were waiting for routine ops like joint replacements or cataract surgery in England by December.

Of them, almost 200,000 had been on the list for more than a year, the highest number since records began in 2007 and 140 times more than in 2019. 

It comes as there are currently 26,723 patients in hospitals across Britain due to Covid-19, with some 3,230 on ventilators.  

A letter from the NHS Confederation warned the Prime Minister that healthcare unrelated to coronavirus will most likely not resume at the speed it did last year due to the harsh impact of the second wave. Pictured: Danny Mortimer

A letter from the NHS Confederation warned the Prime Minister that healthcare unrelated to coronavirus will most likely not resume at the speed it did last year due to the harsh impact of the second wave. Pictured: Danny Mortimer

A letter from the NHS Confederation warned the Prime Minister that healthcare unrelated to coronavirus will most likely not resume at the speed it did last year due to the harsh impact of the second wave. Pictured: Danny Mortimer

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Covid is something that the NHS is going to have to respond to permanently now, going forward.

‘We’re likely to need booster vaccinations. That’s capacity we never planned for before. The pandemic has a huge impact on mental health [as does] the horrible recession that we’re entering. 

‘Then there is the impact of long Covid … 5 to 10 per cent of people who contract the virus appear to have substantial longer-term problems. We will feel that in terms of our services.’ 

Mr Mortimer claimed this was the reason the Chancellor should make room for investment in health and social care in next month’s budget.    

He said the cash injection would help the NHS recover from the pandemic ‘in terms of disrupted care to patients,’ and ensure the health service ‘is in a much more resilient place for the next pandemic, or for living with the long-term consequences of Covid.’     

The Department of Health told the Times it continues to do ‘everything [it] can to support the health service’ during this time of ‘unprecedented pressure.’

There are currently 26,723 patients in hospitals across Britain due to Covid-19, with some 3,230 on ventilators. Pictured: Stock image

There are currently 26,723 patients in hospitals across Britain due to Covid-19, with some 3,230 on ventilators. Pictured: Stock image

There are currently 26,723 patients in hospitals across Britain due to Covid-19, with some 3,230 on ventilators. Pictured: Stock image

NHS England data published in January shows 4.46million people were waiting for routine ops like joint replacements or cataract surgery in England by December. 

For comparison, there were a total of 4.42million patients on the waiting in 2019, and 4.45million the year before. There were just 1,398 people waiting a year or longer last year.

Separate figures, also published by the NHS, showed critical care units were 40 per cent more full in the second week of January than last year. 

Almost 800 patients were forced to wait in ambulances for more than an hour in hospital car parks before being admitted to emergency wards. 

Top medics said the figures paint a picture of the ‘calamitous impact’ of the pandemic on the health service and warned a ‘huge, hidden waiting list’ was building up during lockdown.

And the British Heart Foundation said they showed 12,000 fewer heart operations went ahead in November 2020 compared to previous years. 

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