A third of NHS leaders fear the Covid backlog will take between three and five years to clear, a poll reveals.
A survey of trust leaders, carried out by NHS Providers, has revealed widespread worries about access to care.
With waiting lists already at a record high, some 96 per cent of bosses said demand is significantly rising, with mental health, urgent and emergency care and cancer services topping their worries.
With waiting lists already at a record high, some 96 per cent of NHS bosses said demand is significantly rising, with mental health, urgent and emergency care and cancer services topping their worries
Two thirds said they feared backlogs will make health inequalities worse, while 87 per cent said patients now have more complex needs than before the pandemic.
The survey, which was sent to 170 bosses at 199 trusts, comes as NHS data to be published today is expected to show the highest ever waiting list in England.
The number of those waiting for hospital treatment hit 5.6million in July.
Two thirds said they feared backlogs will make health inequalities worse, while 87 per cent said patients now have more complex needs than before the pandemic
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the NHS is ‘fighting fires on multiple fronts’ and the ‘key intervention’ needed is more staff.
Ms Cordery said: ‘Our survey reveals the sheer scale of the challenge that trusts are now managing.
‘Trust leaders are fighting fires on multiple fronts as they try to recover care backlogs, deal with increased demand for emergency care, treat patients with Covid-19 and prepare for what is likely to be the most challenging winter yet for the NHS.
‘In a matter of weeks, we will face our first winter where both flu and Covid are in circulation.
‘NHS staff are doing all they can to bear down on the care backlog, but the reality on the frontline is that even a small increase in flu, Covid-19 admissions or emergency care attendance will really increase the pressure on the service.’
She said trusts were working with partners across the health and care system ‘to manage waiting lists to prioritise the sickest patients’, but that the key intervention NHS leaders need is new staff.
‘We must not forget that the service entered the pandemic with over 100,000 workforce vacancies,’ she said.
‘We need a fully costed and funded multi-year workforce plan sooner rather than later.’