The NHS waiting list is likely to “grow considerably,” a think tank warned, after a new analysis suggests 7.5 million fewer people were sent to hospital than expected during the pandemic.
A record 5.6 million people in England are waiting for care, according to the latest NHS figures.
But the Health Foundation’s analysis shows that there were 7.5 million fewer people referred for routine hospital care between January 2020 and July 2021 than would have been expected, based on figures before the pandemic.
While it is not clear whether all people will eventually seek help, the think tank warned that the NHS waiting list “will continue to grow” over the next few years.
The think tank suggested the drop in referrals could be due to a number of reasons – people might have delayed seeking care during the pandemic while others might have seen their GPs “but not yet been referred. due to the pressure on hospital services ”.
The Prime Minister conceded earlier this month that the NHS waiting list “would get worse before it gets better”.
When Boris Johnson introduced a further tax hike for health and social services in early September, he said the levy was “fundamental to getting the NHS back on its feet”.
Tim Gardner, senior policy researcher at the Health Foundation, said: “While the government has recently set aside a significant amount of money to tackle the NHS backlog, the scale of the challenge and the number of patients who did not show up for care during the pandemic means the waiting list is expected to continue to grow significantly over the next few years. We don’t know when or how many missing patients will need NHS care in the future, or what treatment they will need when they do.
“However, efforts to tackle the elective care backlog will only be effective if the NHS is able to target resources and support to the patients, services and areas of the country that have been most affected. . “
Meanwhile, a survey commissioned by the Independent Age charity found that half of those over 50 on the waiting list said they were in pain “on a daily basis.”
The survey of more than 8,000 people over the age of 50 found that 10% had been caught in the NHS backlog.
Of these, 52% waiting for an operation said they were in pain every day.
And among people over 65, one in three say they have been waiting for treatment for more than a year.
Deborah Alsina, Managing Director of Independent Age, said tackling the backlog must remain a priority for the government, adding: “Many older people live in daily pain and experience deteriorating mental and physical health.
“We have heard from people who have difficulty with everyday tasks like preparing food, brushing their teeth or going for a walk. Their wait for surgery negatively affects their mood and well-being, and many have told us they feel frustrated and forgotten.
An NHS spokesperson in England said: ‘The care of more than 450,000 critically ill Covid patients inevitably had a ripple effect on elective care and NHS staff stepped up and made effective use of additional resources to help perform millions more. tests, controls, treatments and operations this summer compared to last year. The NHS continues to urge anyone in need of the NHS to come forward through NHS 111 Online so staff can help you with the best option for your care. “
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