George Stoye, Associate Director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, responds to the latest NHS performance figures:

"The figures released today show that almost 5 million people are now waiting for routine hospital treatment, while a huge 436,000 have been waiting for longer than a year. Even as COVID cases decline, and more routine treatment comes back online, it is clear that patients will face long waits for years to come. 

"The waiting times figures are only the tip of the iceberg. As our report, released today, shows, there was huge disruption to planned and unplanned services in hospitals last year. Catching up on this care will take years and billions of pounds of additional health spending. 

"The government have also today announced £160 million to help fund new centres to address elective backlogs. This is a welcome announcement, but will need to be accompanied by a clear plan to make sure that all NHS providers have appropriate numbers of staff to provide these services. After more than a year of tackling the pandemic, a clear workforce strategy that rewards and retains staff is more vital than ever."