Think tank says NHS has become a ‘National Covid service’ - but medical director says this is a ‘disservice’ to staff

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 2:54 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 3:59 pm
The NHS waiting list in England could reach 10 million people by April 2021, according to the Reform think tank (Photo: Shutterstock)

The NHS waiting list in England could reach 10 million people by April 2021, according to the Reform think tank.

Research has shown that patients waiting longer than a year for treatment has risen by more than 12,000 per cent since the Covid pandemic began last March, the think tank has said.

By April of this year, 10 million - or one in six - people could be on the list to receive treatment Reform has predicted, something which the NHS Confederation has said would be “a mammoth task”.

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Eleonora Harwich, director of research at Reform, said: “We must never have the equivalent of a ‘National Covid Service’ again.

“This is a system problem and in no way detracts from the heroic effort of NHS staff battling Covid-19.”

“However, the cessation of so much non-Covid care means patients are facing more serious health conditions or disabilities, and some will die prematurely,” Ms Harwich added.

“It is essential that the Government makes tackling the backlog of undiagnosed disease and untreated illness a national priority.”

However, although chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, acknowledged there was a "significant problem" with waiting lists, he said that "trumpeting worst-case scenarios" about then was "not helpful".

‘A disservice to the work done by our staff’

NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, has said the Reform assessment was a “disservice” to NHS staff and that the health service has not just been dedicated to Covid.

Mr Powis said: “The NHS has never been a Covid-only service – for every Covid patient in hospital, the NHS is treating three people for other conditions.”

“It is obviously a disservice to the work done by our staff who have kept services going throughout the pandemic to suggest otherwise,” he added.

“Even during the highest point of pressure during the pandemic, the waiting list was actually lower than it was at the same point last year and twice as many elective treatments were delivered as well as around three times as many diagnostic checks in the second wave, compared to the first.”