‘Frightening’ performance figures highlight desperate need for plan to tackle NHS backlog, says BMA

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 14 January 2021

Responding to the latest NHS performance figures1, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said: “Today’s performance figures highlight the frightening backlog of care growing in the NHS and the impact that Covid-19 is having on every corner of our system; slowing patient flow, pushing waiting times up, and doctors, to the brink.

“Staff are now familiar with ambulances queuing outside their doors and even having to see patients in car parks while they wait for space to become available. No matter how difficult winter pressures were last year, or the year before, not once were ambulance arrival handovers delayed by more than an hour at such high frequency – this is now becoming a terrifying normality.

“A&E departments are struggling to admit, transfer and discharge patients with 45,000 more patients waiting more than 4 hours in December compared to a month ago. The number of patients waiting over 12 hours in A&E to be admitted from a corridor trolley bed rose to 3,745 – that’s 1,600 more than November. This is partially due to Covid-19 safety and testing procedures, but fundamentally exacerbated by a lack of staff and limited capacity in hospitals.

“And it’s not just A&E. The number of people who have waited for more than a year for routine treatment rose dramatically in November and is the highest level since 2008. This figure will undoubtedly have risen since as NHS care has become further disrupted by skyrocketing Covid-19 hospitalisations, further distressing patients who need and are entitled to treatment and potentially worsening their conditions.

“The NHS is without doubt facing its toughest challenge yet and these figures show that, even after the pandemic has finally subsided, there’s a huge amount of work to do to tackle the backlog and get waiting times down.

“It’s clear that we desperately need a thorough action plan to at least get a head-start on this backlog, but that also includes adequate funding and resources. Without this, we could find ourselves in an even worse position than we are now, with patients suffering long-term as a result.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

1. For the full performance figures, click here.