Daily Mail

NHS failure to get over Covid ‘means Britons will die younger’

- By Shaun Wooller Health Editor

Britons will die younger and in poorer health because the nHs is failing to recover quickly enough from the pandemic, MPs warn.

the service is unlikely to hit key recovery targets for routine operations and cancer care despite a significan­t injection of extra cash, a public accounts committee report reveals.

it highlights poor workforce planning and says there are not enough staff and scanners to rapidly tackle record waiting lists of 7.2million people.

the first year of nHs England’s three-year recovery programme is already ‘falling short of expectatio­ns’, the report notes, with a detrimenta­l impact on people’s quality of life.

this is because bosses made ‘over-optimistic’ assumption­s,

‘Going backwards’

including that there would be low levels of Covid-19 and minimal adverse effects from winter pressures, it adds.

the committee now has serious doubts that the wider nHs recovery plan will be achieved on time and describe waiting times for cancer treatment as ‘especially worrying’.

Meg Hillier, the committee’s chairman, said: ‘the nHs is in full-blown crisis. [it] will not achieve the targets in its recovery plan and that means health, longevity and quality of life indicators will continue to go backwards for the people of this country.’

Cancer waiting times are at their worst recorded level, the report says. some 85 per cent of patients who have been urgently referred by their gP and have cancer confirmed should start treatment within 62 days. But in the first five months of 2022/23, only 62 per cent of cases met this target, with 11 per cent of patients being treated more than 104 days after an urgent referral.

nHs England set a target that the weekly count of patients waiting over 62 days would recover to the pre-pandemic level by March 2023.

the recovery plan also stated activity levels would recover to pre-pandemic levels early in 2022/23. But from April to August 2022, elective activity – non-emergency treatment – was at just 95 per cent of prepandemi­c levels. the Department of Health has allocated £14billion to nHs England from 2022/23 to 2024/25 to recover elective and cancer care. And last year’s Autumn statement committed another £ 3.3billion in 2023/ 24 and 2024/25 to the nHs budget as a whole.

sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of nHs Providers, said: ‘trust leaders are working extremely hard to tackle the backlogs and have made remarkable progress.

‘However, a very tough winter, the impact of industrial action and vast workforce shortages are just some of the challenges threatenin­g to undermine these efforts.’

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