Responding to the publication today by NHS England of the monthly performance statistics, Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
‘Today’s figures highlight an NHS being stretched to its limits in December, as the Omicron variant drove an explosion in COVID-19 cases.
‘Waiting times in A&E departments increased to the longest on record, while nearly 13,000 patients spent over 12 hours on trolleys waiting for a hospital bed.
‘The severe strain on the NHS has been compounded by thousands of hospital staff off sick or self-isolating due to COVID-19. Against existing staff shortages of 100,000, the pressure to deliver care has been unprecedented, leaving many staff exhausted and close to breaking point. The urgent need for a fully funded workforce plan is long overdue.
‘It remains to be seen how severe the most recent wave of COVID-19 will be on growing waiting lists, but it’s clear that millions of people are already feeling the negative effects of a health care system under unsustainable pressure. The waiting list for routine hospital procedures had already reached 6 million by the end of November 2021, before the first patients with the Omicron variant were admitted to hospital.
‘The prime minister has chosen to “ride out” the latest wave of infections without introducing further measures. This is ultimately a political gamble – so the government must be honest with the public about the consequences for the NHS.’