The King’s Fund has commented on the monthly NHS performance data on accident and emergency, referral to treatment and diagnostics which shows the impact of COVID-19 on waits for services in the NHS.
Gbemi Babalola, Senior Analyst at The King’s Fund, said: “COVID-19 has devastated many lives and dealt a body blow to NHS and social care services. Today’s data shows there are now more than 50,000 people who have been waiting for over a year for their treatment to begin – nearly double the number seen last month and four times higher than at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many more are facing long waits to access the care they need, with only half (52%) of people receiving treatment within the 18 week target.
“Today’s figures paint a grim picture for cancer patients with six of eight targets for cancer treatment missed and the number of people undergoing screening within the 62 days target standing at just 13%, compared with 85% for the same time last year.
“The number of people attending A&E is below pre-COVID levels, yet in July the four hour waiting times standard was not met with 92 per cent being treated on time. The number of people advised to go to A&E by NHS 111 has risen by nearly a third since last year. As the NHS develops plans to require people to call before attending A&E, it will be important to make sure that the 111 service has enough clinical staff to assess callers’ needs, which will be challenging when staff are already stretched thin.
“The sheer scale of pent up demand for healthcare services, and the ongoing challenges facing staff during the pandemic mean there is a long and difficult road ahead. Health and care leaders are already bracing for an intense winter spike in demand, and patients should expect long waits for care to continue for many months and maybe years to come.”