Record waiting list figures underline ‘triple-threat’ faced by NHS, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Last reviewed: 12 August 2021

Responding to today’s NHS waiting list figures for England1, which show a record 5.45 million patients waiting to start treatment at the end of June, Dr Vishal Sharma, BMA consultants committee chair, said:

“These figures sharply illustrate the plight faced by both patients waiting excessive lengths of time for treatment, and healthcare staff as they look with trepidation at the record waiting list ahead after what has been the most trying 18 months of their careers.

“While the number of people waiting for longer than a year has thankfully decreased since last month as hospitals start to chip away at the backlog, in all honesty it represents a tiny fraction of the total – which is 280 times higher than it was 2 years ago.

“The NHS currently faces the triple-threat of caring for large numbers of Covid-19 patients, making headway on an ever-growing backlog and then trying to provide ongoing ‘business as usual’ care while maintaining effective infection control to keep patients and staff safe.

“The Government continues to say that tackling the backlog is a priority, but there is no quick fix in a health system that was understaffed and under-resourced long before Covid arrived. Ultimately, clearing the waiting lists will require a significant boost to investment, and will depend on the hard work of doctors and colleagues, who we know are in short supply, with the BMA estimating that England has 50,000 too few doctors to meet demand2. The Government must therefore not just focus on recruiting staff, but more importantly retaining the existing highly-skilled clinicians that have kept the NHS afloat during its most challenging period. This means prioritising their health, wellbeing, and fair pay and working conditions, while fixing longstanding pension taxation problems that limit the amount of work doctors can do and leave many considering early retirement.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union 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. Source: NHS England, Consultant-led Referral to Treatment Waiting Times.
  2. BMA Medical Staffing in England report