“In these turbulent times, with multiple crises across health and care, we must be honest about how we got to this point, and where we can go from here,” says Siva Anandaciva, Chief Analyst at The King’s Fund, commenting on the latest NHS performance figures, which were released earlier this week.
The figures show a further rise in the number of people on the waiting list for treatment, to a new record of 7.75 million. A&E performance and ambulance response times have also dropped, and more than 396,000 people are still waiting for longer than one year for the care they need. This is in spite of the NHS delivering more elective procedures since before the pandemic, and rolling out nearly 10,000 virtual beds. It is also contrary to the Prime Minister’s commitment to cut waiting lists.
As the three main political parties conclude their party conferences, each setting out their own plans for the health service and promises to solve the problems it faces, Siva Anandaciva calls for realism and honesty. “It is tempting for ministers to seek short-term solutions to what are, in reality, deep-rooted issues. Much of the pressure that we see in hospitals can only be solved by boosting the ability of GP, community and social care services to support people before they end up needing hospital treatment.
“A combination of thinking long-term about improving people’s access to out-of-hospital care, making health and social care a more attractive career and tackling the biggest risk factors affecting people’s health is what will slowly reverse the decline in NHS performance. But because of successive failures to plan for the long term, the sad reality for patients and the public is that these long waits for NHS care are likely to remain for years to come.”