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Elective care backlog could rise to 12 million patients by 2025, warns watchdog

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: (Published 01 December 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n2977
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

The waiting list for elective care in England could reach 12 million by early 2025 without additional staff and bed capacity, the government’s spending watchdog has forecast.

In a report published on 1 December,1 the National Audit Office (NAO) cautioned that tackling the existing backlog and restoring elective and cancer care to the required standards would be a daunting challenge for the NHS.

By September 2021 some 5.83 million patients were on the waiting list for elective care, 1.95 million of whom had waited for more than 18 weeks for treatment and 301 000 for more than a year, it said.

Although cancer activity in the NHS had recovered to pre-pandemic levels by June 2021, the watchdog estimated that 240 000 to 740 000 urgent referrals …

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