New NHS figures released today show that there were 6.73 million people waiting for NHS treatment in June 2022, an increase of 120,000 compared to May 2022. The NHS has successfully reduced the number waiting more than two years by 52% in a single month, and there are now fewer than 4,000 people in this group. But despite this success, the total number of long waiters has still increased: there were 7% (24,000) more people waiting for longer than a year, and 5% (129,000) more people waiting for longer than 18 weeks.

There remain signs that many patients who have missed care during the pandemic have still not received the care they need. In June 2022 there were 3% fewer new joiners onto the waiting list compared to June 2019, despite the millions of missed appointments and operations that have occurred since the start of the pandemic. There were 9% more GP appointments in June 2022 than in June 2019, but there were 9% fewer GP referrals to hospitals. This suggests that many people are still struggling to receive the hospital care they would have received pre-pandemic. If these people still need care, it is likely that a significant number of people are living in worse health than before, and risks both more A&E attendances in the future and patients needing more extensive treatment in the longer run.

Max Warner, a research economist at the IFS said:
“Today’s waiting list numbers show that the NHS has successfully slashed the number of people waiting for more than two years. This is encouraging, but in other areas, the news is much less positive. The number of people waiting more than a year, and more than 18 weeks, is continuing to rise. Fewer people are joining the waiting list than pre-pandemic, and despite GPs delivering many more appointments, there are still fewer GP referrals than pre-pandemic. This raises the worrying prospect that many people are currently living with health conditions that they would previously have been treated for.”