Next Government WON'T slash NHS waiting lists to pre-Covid levels: Bleak ... trends now

Next Government WON'T slash NHS waiting lists to pre-Covid levels: Bleak ... trends now
Next Government WON'T slash NHS waiting lists to pre-Covid levels: Bleak ... trends now

Next Government WON'T slash NHS waiting lists to pre-Covid levels: Bleak ... trends now

The next government is unlikely to slash NHS waiting lists to pre-pandemic levels in a single term, a report warns today.

It will take more than four years to bring waits down to what they were in 2019 — and even longer to wipe them out, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The analysis is a major blow to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has promised to eliminate waits for routine treatment within his first term if he becomes Prime Minister.

The think tank warns that even under its optimistic scenario the number waiting in December 2027 will be higher than before the pandemic.

Furthermore, any attempt to bring them down faster would require tax rises, a miraculous increase in NHS productivity, or 'eye-wateringly tough choices elsewhere', it adds.

The NHS waiting list in England was 4.6 million in December 2019 and 7.6million at the end of December last year, the latest month for which figures are available.

This was down slightly from 7.61 million at the end of November.

The government has blamed strikes by junior doctors and consultants for hampering efforts to tackle waiting times.

Speaking in October last year, Labour leader Sir Keir committed to clear waiting lists in the first term of a government under his rule.

But under the IFS's 'central scenario', waiting lists would start to fall 'consistently but slowly' from the middle of 2024 and still stand at 6.5 million in December 2027.

Max Warner, a research economist at IFS and an author of the report, said: 'The next government may well inherit a falling elective NHS waiting list in England.

'But even with a trend pointing in the right direction, waiting lists will still be far higher than they have been – and long waiting times are unlikely to go away any time soon.

'Even under an optimistic set of assumptions, we estimate that in four years' time the waiting list will still be higher than at the start of the pandemic, which itself was much higher than the waiting list in the early 2010s.

'If bringing down waiting lists quickly is a priority, then the next government will likely need both to dedicate additional funding to the health service and to find ways to increase NHS productivity.

The analysis is a major blow to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has promised to eliminate waits for routine treatment within his first term if he becomes Prime Minister. Labour's leader is pictured during a visit to a new-build housing estate in Shropshire on February 26

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