NHS waiting lists rise despite staff providing more care

Rory Deighton, director of the acute network responds to the latest NHS England performance stats.

13 June 2024

  • The total waiting list for procedures and appointments increased to 7.57 million in April, up from 7.54 million in March.  
  • NHS England reports that “staff carried out a record number of elective procedures, appointments and tests for April (1,481,152), more than the previous high for that month of 1,363,439 in April 2019.”
  • There were 2.42 million attendances at A&Es across England in May, the busiest month in records dating back to 2010. 
  • There were 564,693 emergency admissions in May, the second highest on record and the busiest May on record. 
  • The average Category 2 ambulance response time for May was 32 minutes and 44 seconds, up from 30 minutes and 22 seconds in April. The average Category 1 response time rose from 8 minutes 10 seconds to 8 minutes 16 seconds over the same period.

Responding to the latest NHS England performance figures Rory Deighton, director of the NHS Confederation’s Acute Network, said: 

“These figures are a stark reminder of the immense pressure the NHS is under, with leaders and their teams having to work incredibly hard to care for patients in the face of relentless demand. 

“It is disappointing to see that waiting lists have risen for the first time since October despite the health service managing to increase productivity to above pre-pandemic levels. But the rise in productivity is testament to the hard work and planning or NHS leaders and their teams who have been having to manage the pressure of rising demand and ongoing industrial action.

“A&Es saw a record number of attendances and the second highest number of emergency admissions, suggesting that not only is demand continuing to increase but patients are sicker. Ambulance response times are also now going back in the wrong direction.

“We know that the NHS is in a very difficult position, with health systems having to consider cutting clinical and administrative staff to balance their books. Trusts are also telling us they are reducing their use of independent sector and in-sourcing services, more weekend working and additional sessions. 

“There is a very real risk that the financial pressures that stem from a decade of underinvestment, flat revenue budgets and a lack of capital funding the NHS could jeopardise tackling backlogs and improving performance.

“If the NHS is going to tackle waiting lists and improve performance it needs the right support and resources to do so. That is why we are calling for the next government to invest an extra £6.4 billion a year into capital budgets which our members feel is crucial to unlocking greater productivity.”