Responding to the publication of NHS England’s monthly performance statistics, Tim Gardner, Senior Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
'Today’s figures show that the NHS was already facing an exceptionally difficult winter, even before the emergence of the Omicron variant. Ambulances and A&E departments are continuing to experience major pressure, while the waiting list for routine hospital treatment has reached another record high of 5.98 million.
'While the NHS has little choice but to weather the storm over the coming weeks, a credible strategy for restoring normal levels of service will be vital. The NHS recovery plan that has been promised needs to be realistic about the time it could take to bring waiting lists down to manageable levels. And any such plan will need to balance the need to support patients waiting much longer than usual for treatment with the wellbeing of an NHS workforce that is under resourced, overstretched, and exhausted by the last two years. This should be a practical strategy that supports innovation and improvement, while not being top down, punitive or target driven. And it will also need to provide additional support to address the disparities between different parts of the country. Today’s figures highlight that more than 1 in ten (13.1%) patients on the waiting list for routine hospital treatment in Birmingham and Solihull have waited over a year, compared to only 1 in a hundred (1.0%) in South West London.
'Restoring NHS services will also require a commitment to fixing longer-term problems across the health and care system. As well as focussing on hospitals, the recovery plan will need to boost services in primary care and care in the community to keep more people from becoming ill in the first place. And there must be a plan tackle widespread NHS staff shortages which will continue to hamper efforts to recover services.'
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