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Waiting lists for the NHS will not disappear until the summer of 2024

NHS waiting lists will not fall until summer 2024 as hospitals fail to keep operations and appointments, report says

  • The Institute of Fiscal Studies says those waiting for care will be “flatline” next year
  • IFS report adds it risks undermining government and NHS England goals

Waiting lists won’t begin to fall until the middle of next year as hospitals fail to keep surgeries and appointments, a report warns.

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggests that the number of patients awaiting care will “remain more or less the same” over the next 12 months.

This risks leaving patients in agony for longer than necessary and undermining the aims of the Government and NHS England, it adds.

It comes as a blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has made reducing NHS waiting lists one of his top priorities for 2023.

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggests that the number of patients awaiting care will ‘remain more or less the same’ over the next 12 months

There are 7.2 million people on NHS waiting lists in England, the equivalent of about one in eight of the population.

The IFS said some progress has been made in reducing the longest waiting times, but plans to shorten the overall list and significantly increase the number of people receiving help are unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Tim Mitchell, vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, warned that it could take years to clear waiting lists unless the government “acts quickly” to increase capacity, provide additional funds and stick to its staffing plan.

Health leaders say continued strikes by nurses, paramedics and physiotherapists will further hamper efforts to tackle the backlog of the coronavirus pandemic.

The IFS found that the number of patients waiting more than two years fell 94 percent between February and November last year. But it said the number of people waiting from 18 months to two years grew 7 percent through September.

The number of patients waiting between 1.25 and 1.5 years increased from 86,000 in February 2022 to 115,300 in September 2022, and the number of patients on lists of more than a year increased from 300,000 in February to 410,000 in November.

“Our central expectation is that waiting lists will become more or less flat over the coming year and will only decline gradually from mid-2024,” it said.

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