NHS Confederation responds to Institute for Fiscal Studies waiting list analysis

Rory Deighton said that while progress has been made tackling waiting lists there is still a mountain to climb.

29 February 2024

Responding to the new Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis that shows that getting England’s NHS waiting lists down to pre-pandemic levels is highly unlikely within the next parliament Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said: 

“NHS staff are working flat out to boost capacity and drive down waiting lists and over the last few months there have been some positive signs. The overall waiting list for routine hospital treatments has fallen three months in a row while productivity in 2023 was higher than any year since the pandemic. 

“But no one is under illusions that there is still a huge mountain to climb and, as this analysis shows, getting the backlog down is going to take a long time. It is important to remember that the backlog has been building for more than a decade and is not just due to the pandemic. Years of underinvestment in staff, pay, capital and infrastructure have created these long lists, and they won't be resolved overnight.

“The ongoing industrial action and cancellation of thousands of operations and appointments is not helping, and without a resolution to the pay dispute work to tackle the waiting lists will continue to be jeopardised.

“While industrial action and pressures can create a negative cycle of productivity, visiting Newcastle Hospital’s new day treatment centre this week showed me how capital investment in new facilities can make massive improvements to productivity and staff morale, offering real hope for the future.

“We need to be realistic that it will take some years, and significant amounts of capital investment, to start to turn the corner. But we should also take heart that where there is investment the impact for staff, patients and waiting lists can be significant.”