Health

NHS waiting list could DOUBLE to 12 million in just four years, damning report warns 


NHS waiting lists could double to 12 million by 2025 despite billions more in taxpayers’ cash being pumped into our hospital wards, a damning report has concluded.

The National Audit Office (NAO) said millions of patients had missed out on vital care during the pandemic – and could now return to the health service to increase the backlog.

The number currently waiting for NHS care already stands at a record 5.83 million. But the NAO warned this could double to 12 million in a little over three years.

Its report also warned the health service was falling dramatically short on all key targets – including cancer care – with the ‘catastrophic’ consequences costing lives.

And it suggested Boris Johnson’s controversial new ‘health and social care levy’ would be inadequate to prevent hospital waiting lists continuing to soar. The report is likely to add to fears the NHS will swallow up almost all of the money from the new levy in the coming years, leaving little for the collapsing social care sector.

The NHS waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England reached 5.83million in September, the latest available. But the National Audit Office has warned it could spiral to twice this level by 2025 despite billions being pumped into the health service

The NHS waiting list for routine hospital treatment in England reached 5.83million in September, the latest available. But the National Audit Office has warned it could spiral to twice this level by 2025 despite billions being pumped into the health service

Despite the total A&E admissions in England being just two per cent more than August and  equal to the number of people who came forward during the same month (October) in 2019, 7,059 patients were forced to wait more than 12 hours to be seen at A&E. The record-high figure is 40 per cent more than the 5,024 forced to wait that long one month earlier

Despite the total A&E admissions in England being just two per cent more than August and  equal to the number of people who came forward during the same month (October) in 2019, 7,059 patients were forced to wait more than 12 hours to be seen at A&E. The record-high figure is 40 per cent more than the 5,024 forced to wait that long one month earlier

The proportion of cancer patients starting treatment within a month fell to the lowest level since records began in September, latest figures show. Records were started in 2009. The health service's own standards set out that 96 per cent of people should begin treatment, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, within 30 days of it being approved

The proportion of cancer patients starting treatment within a month fell to the lowest level since records began in September, latest figures show. Records were started in 2009. The health service’s own standards set out that 96 per cent of people should begin treatment, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, within 30 days of it being approved

HM Treasury data shows the NHS received £100.4billion in 2010/11 and its budget had grown steadily until 2019. In 2020, the NHS was given £129.7billion of core funding for its usual services, which was topped up with an extra £18billion to help with the pressures from the pandemic. For 2021/22 the Treasury said the health service is set to receive £136.1billion pounds of core funding, as well as £3billion to help with the Covid recovery

HM Treasury data shows the NHS received £100.4billion in 2010/11 and its budget had grown steadily until 2019. In 2020, the NHS was given £129.7billion of core funding for its usual services, which was topped up with an extra £18billion to help with the pressures from the pandemic. For 2021/22 the Treasury said the health service is set to receive £136.1billion pounds of core funding, as well as £3billion to help with the Covid recovery 

Today’s study by the NAO – an independent watchdog that scrutinises public spending for Parliament – provides the most in-depth assessment to date of the horrifying legacy of the pandemic on non-Covid care.

Even under its best case scenario, the NAO said the number of people in England waiting for routine care – currently at a record 5.8 million – will increase to 7 million in 2025.

But if the NHS were to perform activity at pre-pandemic levels, this would actually reach 12 million by 2025 – meaning one fifth of the population was caught in the backlog.

People who survive severe Covid are 2.5 times as likely to die within 12 months as someone who did not catch the virus 

Long Covid may lead to an increased risk of death in the year after a patient’s diagnosis, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Florida analyzed health records from over 13,000 patients, following them for 12 months.

Patients who had severe Covid symptoms were 2.5 times as likely to die over the next year after their diagnosis compared with those who tested negative for Covid.

Younger patients (under age 65) who suffered severe symptoms had a particularly high mortality risk at 3.3 times as likely to die as patients under age 65 who tested negative.

The study indicates that there’s ‘a substantial risk of dying’ from unrecognized Covid complications, the study’s lead author said. Vaccination can prevent such complications.

Experts warned if the Omicron variant leads to more disruption and lockdowns this winter there will be an ‘even bigger mountain to climb’. The report said up to 9.1 million patients missed out on referrals for elective care, saying ‘millions have avoided seeking or been unable to obtain healthcare during the pandemic’.

Many were put off seeking help due to the Government’s ‘stay at home message’, while others had vital operations and appointments cancelled as hospitals dealt with an influx of Covid-19 patients.

The NAO said it had been ‘impossible’ for the NHS to maintain cancer care throughout the crisis and treatment including chemotherapy ‘dropped significantly’. There were between 240,000 and 740,000 ‘missing’ urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer from March 2020 to September 2021. And between 35,000 and 60,000 fewer people started treatment for cancer than would have been expected during this time frame.

The authors of the report said it is uncertain how many ‘missing’ cases will return to the NHS over the coming months.

But if 50 per cent seek treatment, and activity continues to grow in line with pre-pandemic plans, the waiting list would reach 12 million by March 2025.

If the NHS meets the Government’s target of increasing activity by 10 per cent more than planned, the waiting list would stand at 7 million in 2025.

The Government’s new 1.25 per cent hike in national insurance, coming into force in April, will raise an extra £36billion over three years for the NHS and social care.

Of this, £8billion will go specifically to addressing the backlog. 

However, the NAO said it was uncertain whether this funding would be enough to reduce waiting times and address long-term problems in the health service.

It noted ‘waiting time performance had been gradually deteriorating’ since 2013 and ‘the pandemic heaped yet more pressure on a care system that was already creaking under the strain’.

NHS England data show ambulance staff had their busiest-ever October, with staff answering a record 1million calls. Staff responded to more than 82,000 life-threatening calls, 20,000 more than than in October 2019. But those who called had to wait an average of 56 seconds for an answer — seven times longer than in October last year when it took operators seven second to answer the calls

NHS England data show ambulance staff had their busiest-ever October, with staff answering a record 1million calls. Staff responded to more than 82,000 life-threatening calls, 20,000 more than than in October 2019. But those who called had to wait an average of 56 seconds for an answer — seven times longer than in October last year when it took operators seven second to answer the calls

Ambulance response times for the most urgent incidents, called Category 1, which includes cardiac arrests, took an average of nine minutes and 20 seconds, well above the target of seven minutes from a 999 call

Ambulance response times for the most urgent incidents, called Category 1, which includes cardiac arrests, took an average of nine minutes and 20 seconds, well above the target of seven minutes from a 999 call

Figures show the average ambulance response time to Category 2 calls, which includes strokes and other emergencies, was 53 minutes and 54 seconds in October, compared with the target time of 18 minutes

Figures show the average ambulance response time to Category 2 calls, which includes strokes and other emergencies, was 53 minutes and 54 seconds in October, compared with the target time of 18 minutes

NHS England data shows that in February 2020, just 83 per cent of patients were seen within the 18-week standard. By last month, this had fallen to 66 per cent.

The report said it will be impossible to clear the waiting list unless workforce shortages – of around 100,000 doctors, nurses and other NHS staff – are addressed. It also warned ‘the ongoing pandemic may continue to affect bed and staff availability in unexpected ways and at short notice’.

The NAO report said if the backlog is to be cleared, social care needs support so elderly patients do not end up trapped in hospital.

Tim Mitchell, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said the projection that waiting lists could hit 12 million was ‘very worrying’ but ‘will not come as a surprise’.

He called for the creation of ‘surgical hubs’ to tackle the backlog, adding: ‘Frustrated patients who have been left waiting in pain for hip, knee, heart and other vital operations, want to know there is a plan to reduce waiting times.’

A spokesman for NHS England said: ‘NHS staff are now pulling out all the stops to recover elective activity levels, so anyone who is concerned about their health should come forward so the NHS can help you.’ 



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