More than five million people would still be on NHS waiting lists even without the pandemic

Many patients who did not access care during the pandemic may still not show up, leaving the potential for lists to grow considerably larger, the researchers warned.

But they said hospitals were still not running as many operations and outpatient appointments as they were before the first lockdown, with nine per cent fewer patients admitted and one per cent fewer non-admitted.

The study warns that the number of people waiting for diagnostic tests that can detect diseases such as cancer has increased by 45 percent since the start of the pandemic.

In total, 1.57 million people are now waiting, up from 1.08 million before the pandemic.

As a result, conditions are detected later, when they are less likely to be treatable.

Research shows that the number of tests and procedures being done as emergencies is now 30 percent higher than before the pandemic, suggesting that cases are being detected much later.

In February 2020, 315,803 tests and procedures were performed, rising to 424,366 in May 2022.

Meanwhile, the number of planned tests has been reduced by four percent.

While three per cent of patients were forced to wait more than six weeks for tests before the pandemic, 26 per cent of patients are in this situation now, the latest figures show.

And the 13-week wait number has multiplied by 25.

In February 2020 there were 6,371 people facing such waits. For May of this year the figure was 157,317.

The report shows that the pandemic had a “seismic” impact on health care, with dating at GP practices falling by nearly a third during the first lockdown.

While the number of appointments has returned to pre-pandemic levels, general practice “access and experience” has been “significantly affected” by Covid-19, it warns.

The latest survey of GP patients, collected between January and April this year, found almost half of those surveyed were unable to communicate by phone, while a quarter avoided making appointments because they found it too difficult.

Meanwhile there has been a increasing pressures on ambulance services and the A&E departments.

The cart expects an increase of 30 pieces

the car waits have increased 30% with 357,000 waits of at least four hours in 2021/22 compared to 278,000 such waits in the winter before the pandemic.

Jessica Morris, Nuffield Trust Fellow, said: “There is no denying the seismic upheaval that Covid-19 has had on health and care services, but the pandemic itself cannot be seen as the sole cause of the alarming waits to receive attention.

“Even before the pandemic, wait times were increasing. At the start of the pandemic, more than 4.4 million people were on the waiting list for treatment. Without Covid, and if current trends had continued, by the end of May of this year we would probably have had a waiting list of 5.3 million.

“This reflects a mismatch in demand, staffing and resources that has existed for a long time. Preexisting delays for routine care, increased waits at A&E departments, longer ambulance turnaround times, and waits for cancer treatment have only accelerated during the pandemic. This has made the NHS recovery challenge even more daunting.”

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