Drive to clear NHS backlog is thrown off course by staff shortage, MPs are warned 

NHS waiting lists ‘are set to double by 2025’: Drive to clear backlog is thrown off course by staff shortage, MPs are warned

  • Almost 6million patients are waiting for NHS treatment after Covid pandemic 
  • Efforts to clear backlog are thrown off by staff shortages due to isolation rules
  • Without urgent action, numbers of patients on waiting list could double by 2025
  • There are 93,000 vacancies for NHS roles and shortages in nearly all specialties

Efforts to clear record NHS waiting lists risk being thrown off course by a staff shortage fuelled by Covid isolation rules, MPs have warned.

The pandemic has had a ‘catastrophic impact’ on patients with almost 6million now waiting for care in England.

But the Commons health and social care committee said lists could double by 2025 without urgent action to get more doctors and nurses on wards. 

In a report it highlights 93,000 vacancies in the health service, with rules forcing staff to self-isolate for at least a week if they test positive for Covid adding to the shortfall.

The committee said NHS staff are under pressure from multiple angles as they deal with routine care, Covid and soaring demand for ambulances and A&E.

MPs fear workers will quit unless they see ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in the form of more recruits.

The pandemic has had a ‘catastrophic impact’ on patients with almost 6million now waiting for care in England

They say tackling the wider backlog caused by the pandemic is a major and ‘unquantifiable’ challenge as it includes all those who have yet to come forward for care. 

Committee members want a broad national recovery plan embracing emergency, community and social care, as well as mental health and GPs.

The report said: ‘Of the 5.8million patients waiting to start treatment in September 2021, 300,000 have been waiting more than a year and 12,000 more than two years.’

But it cautions: ‘With Covid-related measures such as social distancing and staff self-isolation constraining NHS capacity, we heard it is extremely difficult to accurately quantify the true scale of the backlog.’ 

While MPs welcomed Government funding to create an extra 9million checks, scans and operations, they said NHS England has yet to show ‘how it plans to meet its workforce requirements’.

They added: ‘Without better short and long-term workforce planning, we do not believe that the 9million additional checks, tests and treatments will be deliverable.

‘We note there are currently 93,000 vacancies for NHS positions and shortages in nearly every specialty. We remain unconvinced there are sufficient plans for recruitment and retention of staff.

‘Our concerns also extend to the social care workforce, which has at present 105,000 vacancies and a turnover rate of 28.5 per cent, rising to 38.2 per cent for nurses working in social care.’

Tory MP Jeremy Hunt, committee chairman and former health secretary, said: ‘Our report finds the Government’s recovery plans risk being thrown off course by an entirely predictable staffing crisis.

‘The NHS will be able to deliver little more than day-to-day firefighting unless the Government wakes up to the scale of the staffing crisis and urgently develops a long-term plan to fix the issue.’