NHS Faces Major Backlog and the Catch Up Won’t Be Easy Say Researchers

According to researchers, the struggling NHS will have to treat an extra 10% of patients to catch up with the growing backlog. Here’s the full story.

NHS Struggles With 2.6 Million Surge in Waiting List Cases

The National Health Service (NHS) in England is fighting with a substantial backlog of non-urgent hospital cases, exacerbated by the pandemic. Analysis from the Universities of Edinburgh and Strathclyde indicates a surge of 2.6 million cases on the waiting list for non-urgent care from February 2020 to October 2022.

The waiting list now stands at 7.6 million, with growing concerns about the NHS’s ability to keep up with the growing backlog.

Despite NHS England’s recovery plan aiming for a 30% increase in capacity by 2025, recent figures show a marginal 1.3% reduction in the waiting list, revealing a pressing need for more decisive action and funding. 

Researchers argue that a minimum monthly increase of 10% in non-emergency hospital cases is essential to effectively tackle the mounting backlog. The study suggests that even achieving the 30% increase in capacity targeted by the NHS recovery plan may not be sufficient, with several years required beyond 2025 to clear the backlog completely.

“Even if the ambitious target of 30% increase in capacity is achieved during the next three years, several years (beyond the end of 2025) will be needed for the backlog to clear,” researchers argue.

NHS Struggles to Meet Key Targets

Despite efforts to reduce waiting lists, recent NHS England data indicates a stagnant waiting list, standing at 7.6 million and decreasing only marginally by 1.3% from the previous month. The struggle to meet key targets is evident as the health service faces challenges in treating over 6 million patients, with hundreds of thousands waiting for more than a year.

The NHS continues to face difficulties in meeting crucial targets, with more than 6 million patients awaiting treatment. Although there has been a slight reduction in the waiting list, the number of patients waiting over 18 months has increased, reaching over 355,000. 

Emergency care also witnesses setbacks, as A&E departments struggle to meet targets. The NHS recovery plan aims for a 76% target for patients attending A&E to be admitted, transferred, or discharged within four hours. However, recent data reveals a decline, with only 69.4% of patients in England meeting this target in December 2023.

A&E departments face challenges as patients experience prolonged waits, falling short of the target set in the NHS recovery plan. The decline in A&E performance is evident with a decrease from 69.7% in November to 69.4% in December. Ambulance response times increase, with urgent calls taking an average of eight minutes and 44 seconds.

NHS Falls Short of Bed Expansion Promise

Despite the prime minister’s pledge to address potential NHS winter crises by creating 5,000 additional beds before winter, the figures reveal a shortfall. Only 4,203 extra beds were added, and bed occupancy rates surged to 93.2%. Sir Julian Hartley, CEO of NHS Providers, said “Although progress on key recovery targets across urgent and emergency care has slipped, NHS leaders still aim to meet these by the end of March.

Better funding for services and an urgent resolution to industrial action is vital to ensure the NHS can get through this winter and beyond.” Resolving industrial action is deemed vital to ensuring the NHS’s resilience through winter and beyond.

“The NHS is still not meeting the majority of its most important performance targets this winter … Patients are still not receiving an acceptable level of service,” said the Chief Executive of the King’s Fund, Sarah Woolnough.

“To end this cycle of poor performance, the government must make long-term decisions to put the service back on track year-round. This includes making health and care a more attractive place to build a career, bolstering out-of-hospital care such as primary, community and social care services,” Woolnough continued.

Patients Waiting up to Two-And-A-Half Years

Patients in England are experiencing prolonged waits for important diagnostic tests, including ultrasound, MRI, and CT scans. Freedom of information requests by the Liberal Democrats reveal alarming delays, with some patients waiting up to two-and-a-half years. Long waits for diagnostic tests, exceeding NHS constitution targets, indicate strain on healthcare resources.

The extended waiting times, particularly for critical tests, pose challenges for patients, with implications for timely diagnosis and treatment.

The post NHS Faces Major Backlog and the Catch Up Won’t Be Easy Say Researchers first appeared on Pulse365 Limited.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images.

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