There could be up to 14 million people on NHS waiting lists by next autumn.
THERE could be up to 14 million people on NHS waiting lists in England by next autumn, a new analysis has suggested.
It said as of now some five million are waiting for routine operations and procedures. However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) say there is also a hidden backlog of patients who are yet to come forward for treatment.
Figures suggest that there are a record number of patients who are waiting for surgery – with more than 385,000 patients waiting more than a year, compared to just 1,600 before the pandemic.
The government clarified that £1bn has had been given to the NHS this year to clear the backlog.
Meanwhile, the number of people waiting for heart surgery in England could also see a rise to almost double pre-pandemic levels, a charity has warned.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimated that numbers could peak at 15,385 people by February next year.
The organisation also predicted those awaiting general cardiology care could increase to more than half a million by early 2024, which it said is more than double pre-pandemic levels from February 2020.
Last month, health secretary Sajid Javid was shocked to learn that the waiting lists could rise to 13 million patients.
In order to stop the numbers of waiting patients getting high, IFS said NHS needs to treat more patients that it did before the pandemic.
“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),” said the IFS.
“Expanding capacity will be the only solution to cutting waiting lists in the future.”
In an optimistic scenario, the IFS says numbers could rise to nine million by 2025, but that would need the NHS to be able to work at 5 per cent more capacity than it did before the pandemic and would come at a cost of at least £2bn.
If the NHS can’t boost capacity, the IFS warns, longer waiting lists will remain for years to come.