The RCP has responded to the latest NHS monthly performance data.
Responding the data, Sir Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:
“There has been a targeted focus by hospital teams and clinicians working above and beyond normal hours to reduce waiting times for those who have been waiting the longest for treatment, and this has been successful. But we must not celebrate too soon though as the rest of the waiting list is proving very difficult to address and continues to go in the wrong way.
“New figures today that 6.8m people in England are on waiting lists, around 12% of the population, show there can be no doubt that backlogs are one of the greatest challenges facing the NHS right now.
“There are many barriers to reducing waiting lists but the main one has to be workforce – we simply don’t have enough staff to meet the current and growing demand for care. That is as true of the NHS as it is in social care. We need more healthcare staff, not just doctors, but nurses, medical associate professions like Physician Associates, allied healthcare professionals and social care professionals. Without a strategic long-term plan to expand the workforce and recruit and retain more NHS staff, waiting times are likely to get even longer.
“There are many patients currently in hospital who are well enough to go home but cannot because of a lack of social care packages. This too is partly a staffing issue. Investment in social care is crucial to resolving issues with discharges, but in the long-run successful integration of health and social care will rest on funding for both as equal partners.
“In the long-term, we need the government to commit to tackling the root causes of ill health so that we can prevent avoidable illness that contributes to rises in NHS demand in the first place. An explicit cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities is urgently needed to improve and protect the nation’s health before they reach the point of needing hospital care.”