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Responding to the publication of NHS England’s monthly performance statistics, Tim Gardner, Senior Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:

'Today’s figures provide further evidence of the increasingly serious pressures facing hospitals across the country. With waiting lists at an all-time high, millions of patients and staff are feeling the impact of a health system struggling to cope with demand.

'The government has said that the NHS is under ‘sustainable pressure’, but this does not reflect the reality. There are multiple factors which are already impacting patient care – delays to cancer treatment and routine operations, record high waits for ambulances and in A&E, high demand for GP appointments and an overstretched workforce exhausted by the pandemic – all of which are reflected in today’s figures. That we are facing pressures this significant before we have reached the peak of winter is concerning, particularly as cases of seasonal viruses and rising staff absences are likely to add further pressure.

'There are no quick fixes. Policymakers should focus on addressing the long-term capacity issues that are exacerbating the current situation and undermining efforts to reduce the backlog that built up over the pandemic. The most pressing is for long overdue action to address severe staff shortages. Alongside a coherent workforce plan, this will require significant investment in training, recruitment and retention of NHS staff. Our analysis suggests that recently announced additional funding for recovering services – while a welcome first step – will not be enough to return the NHS to pre-pandemic performance, let alone provide a health care system that is resilient enough to withstand future crises.'

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Simon Perry
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