IFS - Sajid Javid’s warning of a 13 million NHS waiting list is well within the realms of possibility
The new Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, recently warned that the number of people on a waiting list for NHS care in England could reach as many as 13 million. New IFS modelling shows the scale of the waiting list challenge ahead, as the millions who have missed out on care come forward, and the NHS is potentially hamstrung by infection control measures and the continued need to treat a high number of Covid-19 patients.
The analysis shows that whether or not waiting lists rise as far as 13 million depends crucially on the ability of the NHS to expand its capacity and treat more patients than it did pre-pandemic. If that proves impossible, waiting lists could indeed rise to 13 million – or even higher.
NHS waiting lists have grown by less than a million since the start of the pandemic despite there being 3 million fewer planned admissions and 17 million fewer outpatient appointments in the first ten months of the pandemic alone. This is because 7 million fewer people joined the waiting list between March 2020 and May 2021 than would otherwise have been expected. What happens to waiting lists in the short term will therefore depend crucially on what fraction of these 7 million “missing” patients come back for treatment.
In the longer term, NHS capacity to deal with non Covid patients will be crucial. Even if only two thirds of the missing patients return then with capacity at 95% of pre-pandemic levels – much more than the NHS is currently managing – waiting lists could easily exceed 13 million (and keep growing). Expanding capacity will be the only solution to cutting waiting lists in the future.
Finding ways to boost NHS capacity will therefore be a major and pressing challenge for the new Secretary of State and NHS Chief Executive, and will undoubtedly feed into discussions around NHS funding at this autumn's Spending Review.
Max Warner, a Research Economist at the IFS and an author of the analysis, said:
"More than 4 million people were on an NHS waiting list even before the pandemic. Covid-19 has only made matters worse, as millions of people have missed out on treatment and millions more haven't even been referred onto the waiting list to begin with. There is a real risk that if the NHS cannot find effective ways to boost its capacity – a challenge at the best of times, let alone after a major pandemic – then much longer waiting lists will be with us for years to come."
Latest News from
Clear vision needed for health and social care23/02/2024 16:25:00
The Scottish Government needs to develop a clear national strategy for health and social care to address the pressures on services.
The IFS Scottish Budget Report – 2024–2523/02/2024 10:20:00
This report looks at the key budgetary and public service issues for the Scottish Government for the 2024–25 financial year and beyond.
IEA - Red tape has fuelled the cost of living crisis, argues new IEA paper22/02/2024 16:20:00
Since 2000, sectors with heavy state intervention have experienced large price rises while competitive markets have experienced price falls.
IFS - Scottish Government boosts support for students’ living costs, but further cuts funding for universities to teach them22/02/2024 10:20:00
How much does the Scottish Government spend on higher education, and what challenges does it face on university funding and living cost support?
Demos - New statistics confirm that the pandemic has had a sustained negative impact on employment in the UK – here’s how policy makers should respond22/02/2024 09:20:00
This week the ONS published new statistics about employment and jobs in the UK – the first time for a number of months due to problems with survey response rates. With the appropriate caveats that the figures are estimates based on survey data – and therefore, as always, they come with a margin of error – here’s what we learnt from the new statistics, and some of the implications for policy makers.
IPPR - Calls for ‘quick win’ changes to social security as claimants say system leaves them ‘scared, exhausted and drained’21/02/2024 15:05:00
A state of the nation report on the UK’s social security system concludes with a package of reforms to cut poverty, incentivise work and deliver quick wins to create a modern welfare system.
IFS - January usually sees the government run an overall surplus, as this is the month when a large chunk of self-assessment receipts is paid21/02/2024 13:10:00
Today’s ONS government borrowing figures suggest that the public sector ran a surplus of £16.7 billion in January. This is much bigger than the £7.5 billion surplus it ran in January 2023, and is the biggest January surplus on record.
King's Fund - An unhealthy end looms for the private finance initiative19/02/2024 09:20:00
The private finance initiative (PFI) was controversial from day one. Ten thousand or so days later it still is, as the first of these 25–30-year contracts for the private sector to finance, design, build and maintain public assets, including hospitals, come to an end.