The Government previously said they had expected numbers to fall by March 2024.
According to a new analysis by the Health Foundation, NHS waiting lists are to peak at over eight million by next summer.
On current trends, the waiting list for routine and elective care would continue to rise peaking at 8 million by August 2024. The foundation explains this is a best-case scenario with the waiting list being 180,000 higher if industrial action across the NHS continues.
Government ministers previously said they had expected waiting list numbers to fall by March 2024 but this is looking increasingly unlikely.
The health think tank says the expectations set out in the elective care recovery plan would not be met under any of the scenarios it explored. A new wave of Covid or a bad winter flu season could further derail plans, the experts warned.
Charles Tallack, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, concludes, “Eliminating the backlog for elective care and returning waiting times to 18 weeks is entirely possible – it was done in the early 2000s and it can be done again. However, it will be very challenging and will require sustained focus, policy action and investment.”
A decade of NHS mismanagement.
In response to the analysis, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the rising waiting lists are a result of a decade of NHS mismanagement by the government.
RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: “Ministers will try to use strikes as an excuse for their failure to cut waiting times, but the very reason nursing staff took action is because of the rapid deterioration we witnessed in recent years.
“The bottom line is that this was a crisis that started over a decade ago with serious underinvestment in the NHS and its workforce.
“This deplorable neglect has left an ever-growing number of people suffering as they wait for treatment. There is a chasm between the number of patients needing treatment, and the number of nursing staff available.
“Nurses have been crystal clear that government promises to cut waiting lists are empty without investment in the nursing workforce. If the Prime Minister wants to stand by his word, we need to see investment in the nursing workforce in the Autumn Statement.”
With winter just around the corner the government has just weeks to take decisive action.