The NHS waiting list: when will it come down?

Published on 29 February 2024

We discuss all things waiting list - What is it? How big is it? Is there a credible plan to get it back down?

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Since the pandemic, the size the NHS waiting list has been in the headlines almost constantly. At the start of 2023, Rishi Sunak committed to decreasing the size of the waiting list as one of his ‘five priorities’, and since then it has actually gone up. 

So today, we’re going to dive into the NHS waiting list - what is it? How big is it? And is there a credible plan to get it back down?


Joining us to answer those questions are Ben Zaranko and Max Warner, IFS economists who have recently published a report on the NHS waiting list.

Zooming In: discussion questions

Every week, we share a set of questions designed for A Level economics students to discuss, written by teacher Will Haines.

1. How many people are currently on the waiting list in England and how does this compare to pre-pandemic levels?

2. Apart from clinical need, explain the other factors we should consider when prioritising those who need an operation.

3. Outline the possible impact of this NHS backlog on the UK economy. 

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