Responding to the publication today of NHS England’s monthly performance statistics, Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
'Today’s data highlights the difficult juggling act the NHS faces in meeting emergency pressures, restoring services and addressing the backlog of care while COVID-19 cases still remain high.
‘Routine hospital services were effectively back to pre-pandemic levels of activity in June, a remarkable achievement by NHS staff. With the waiting list reaching a new record high of 5.45 million, this progress will need to be sustained if the health service is to tackle the backlog of patients waiting for elective care.
‘However, hospital capacity is clearly under severe strain, with July seeing A&E departments continue to be busier than before the pandemic and more NHS staff absent due to COVID. While far fewer patients are being admitted with COVID than in previous waves, thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, even a small number of admissions has a disproportionate impact due to the ongoing need to maintain infection prevention and control.
‘The government and NHS leaders now need to be clear and realistic with the public about how they intend to get the NHS back to full strength, including dealing with the backlog of care. There will need to be significant investment at the upcoming Spending Review if we are to see improvement on waiting lists and addressing the staff shortages which are holding back progress.’
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