Responding to the latest publication of the NHS performance statistics and the Estates Returns Information for 2021/22, Tim Gardner, senior policy fellow at the Health Foundation, has issued a warning that the NHS is under severe strain.
"These figures mark a grim milestone for the NHS, with over seven million people now waiting for treatment," he commented. "The data should be a warning to Government that NHS and social care services are already under severe strain, even before winter starts to bite."
He pointed out that, in September 2022, over 1 in 10 people with a serious condition such as a stroke or chest pain waited over 100 minutes for an ambulance while nearly 33,000 people spent more than 12 hours on trolleys in emergency departments waiting for a hospital bed. By the end of August 2022, over 387,000 had waited over a year for routine hospital treatment.
"A decade of underfunding and failure to tackle huge workforce shortages set the scene for the NHS’s challenges long before COVID," he continued. "The approach to capital spending for building repairs and new equipment has been too short term, with the backlog of repairs now £10.2 billion – up 11% on last year. Pressures are being felt right across the health and social care system. Vacancies in social care were up by a record 52% last year. This is unsurprising given poor pay and conditions in the sector, with new Health Foundation analysis finding that 1 in 5 residential care workers in the UK were living in poverty before the cost-of-living crisis."
He concluded that, if the government wants to improve growth, it "must treat health and wealth as inseparable."