Government must act now to guard NHS against tough winter

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy, comments on the latest performance figures for the NHS in England.

12 August 2021

Commenting on the latest monthly NHS performance figures for England, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said:

“NHS teams have been working incredibly hard to restore services and care for as many patients as possible, with the number of people waiting over a year to start treatment falling by a further 32,000 month-on-month – a remarkable feat against a backdrop of workforce shortages and reduced capacity because of infection control requirements.

“With the second highest number of people on record checked for cancer in June, it’s clear how much progress is being made. But the NHS still faces a monumental challenge. We cannot escape the fact that there is now a backlog of 5.5 million patients, or that pressure across the health service is still increasing, with 2.16 million A&E attendances in July – the highest since winter 2019 and amounting to some 70,000 attendances a day.

“The government must take steps now to make sure the NHS can cope as autumn and winter are expected to be even tougher than usual this year.

“Health leaders urgently need clarity on funding for the second half of the financial year and beyond. Without this, trusts risk having to spend money for which they might not be reimbursed, to manage ongoing COVID-19 pressures, keep making sure people can leave hospital as soon as they are medically fit, and manage capital requirements.

“The NHS will continue to do all it can to care for all patients, but we must acknowledge the pandemic could still cause further disruption. We can all keep taking simple steps to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19, especially as self-isolation requirements are set to be reduced. That includes wearing face coverings, keeping up hand hygiene, and getting both doses of a vaccine.”