Responding to the latest NHS England performance figures, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:
“A year to the day the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation, the latest performance figures are a timely reminder of the huge disruption to NHS services and patients caused by COVID-19.
“It is striking that 1.3 million patients received non-COVID care in January and shows the enormous effort NHS teams have gone to maintain care for patients, even when faced with a dramatic surge of COVID-19 cases in January. However, the scale of the challenge the NHS faces is huge. With over 300,000 people now waiting over a year for treatment, these figures illustrate just how much disruption there has been to NHS services and to our patients.
“The latest figures show that there are now around 4.6 million patients waiting to start treatment. As our recent analysis has shown the true demand for elective care could become even greater when referrals for treatment begin to increase again following a 30 per cent drop last year. These figures, as stark as they are may just be scratching the surface, with a possible backlog of 6.9 million by the end of 2021 and the government must now urgently address the need for long-term investment in NHS services and be willing and brave enough to start an open honest about what it will take to tackle the backlog alongside the increased demands for long COVID care and mental health support.
“Whilst more investment is undoubtedly needed in the coming years, it is simply not possible for our members to address the recovery of NHS services in the coming weeks, whilst still dealing with the pandemic, unless there is an agreed NHS budget for the new financial year starting in April. Leaders across the NHS are struggling to comprehend why both the Government and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak remain silent on this. They are frankly incredulous that the Chancellor and his team cannot give the NHS the desperately required certainty it needs, particularly as he promised to give the NHS everything it needed to respond to the pandemic.
“Today’s figures show the mountain the NHS now has to climb as well as the dedication of its staff in providing care for patients, but unless the Government provides certainty and surety on the support it desperately needs it faces more dark days ahead.”