Commenting on the publication of NHS England’s monthly performance statistics, Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:
'Today’s data show that the number of urgent referrals for patients with suspected cancer are now back to pre-pandemic levels. This is a major milestone for the health service and testament to the huge efforts of NHS staff. However, more people are experiencing longer waits for routine hospital care with 139,545 patients waiting over a year.
'The concern is that ongoing delays for routine hospital care will increase the hidden backlog of unmet care needs that the NHS will have to contend with, alongside the increased pressures that come with winter. Analysis by the Health Foundation has found that there were 4.7 million fewer people referred for routine hospital care between January and August 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. There is no simple solution to these issues – addressing the backlog will take time, money and determination.
'The prospect of a COVID-19 vaccine is of course a positive and welcome development, but it will not be a silver bullet for dealing with the challenges that the NHS faces. What is needed is a realistic plan plus the resources to deal with the demand for NHS services that have accrued since the pandemic began.'
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