Patients can expect to wait for more than 12 months to receive routine NHS procedures ‘for some years’, health bosses have warned.
Waiting more than a year for treatment will become ‘normal’ as a result of tthe damage done by the winter Covid wave.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the NHS Confederation claimed people should not expect access to non-Covid care to be as readily available as it was last summer following the first peak.
The letter urges the Government to have ‘an honest conversation’ with the public about the future, warning that patients can expect to be waiting over 12 months for routine operations ‘for some years’.
A ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to waits of over 52 weeks for planned treatments – a key Government target – will not be feasible, the NHS Confederation letter states.
One hundred times more people have been on NHS waiting lists for more than a year now compared to this time in 2020.
Latest figures show 192,000 people in England have been waiting 12 months or more for treatment, compared to about 1,600 last January.
The surge in year-plus waits is a result of NHS hospitals being deluged by double the number of Covid patients this winter compared to the first wave, with almost 40,000 sufferers in hospital at the peak in January compared to little over 20,000 last April.
Cancer experts have warned that patients are going without tests – and then without treatment – as hospitals prioritise Covid cases.
Patients are being faced with year-long waits for many other conditions, too.
Separately, the Royal College of Physicians, said that “unbelievably tired” NHS staff are in desperate need of a break.
According to surveys by the membership body, more than a quarter of NHS workers have sought mental health support during the pandemic and almost one in ten of those did so formally via their employer or GP.
Official figures show that over three million NHS staff in England have taken sick days due to mental ill health since the start of the pandemic.