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

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NHS waiting lists ‘are set to double by 2025’: Drive to clear backlog is thrown off course by staff shortage, MPs are 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 pandemic has had a ‘catastrophic impact’ on patients with almost 6million now waiting for care in England

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.

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.

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