Rising Covid-19 infection rates will have an impact on the NHS’s ability to tackle the backlog of care, health leaders have said.
NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, warned that even though pressure on hospitals will be much lower than previous waves, a rise in hospital admissions could have an effect on the “speed of care backlog recovery”.
The comments come as the NHS is expected to reveal how big the backlog of care is.
Figures published in June show 5.12 million people were waiting to start hospital treatment at the end of April – the highest number since records began in August 2007.
This is the equivalent of 9% of the population of England.
The new data will be published later on Thursday.
Speaking ahead of the data release, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “Trust leaders are worried that the public narrative is focusing on Covid-19 admissions in isolation rather than the full picture of the pressures their trusts are currently facing.
“To predict what the picture might look like in July to September this year, we need to look at four factors.
“First, trusts are working flat out to address the backlog of care which is bringing huge pressure on services and staff.
“Second, demand is worryingly high for urgent and emergency care with a number of trusts reporting record levels of daily demand in June.
“On top of that the NHS is currently operating with significant capacity constraints because of continuing infection control measures.
“And finally, there is real pressure on staffing levels, given how many staff are having to self-isolate.
“This will get worse after restrictions ease on 19 July. Many staff are also due to take well earned annual leave, which is a priority.
“The impact of summer leave will be much higher this year given how much leave has been held over from earlier in the year and last year due to Covid-19 pressures.
“So whilst Covid-19 admissions are likely to be much lower, the NHS is still likely, as a whole, to be under very significant pressure and this means something will have to give.
“Most likely, in many places, this will be speed of care backlog recovery because trusts can control this much more easily than the demand for emergency or Covid-19 care.”
On the final easing of restrictions, he added: “The Government must continue to monitor the evidence between now and next Monday to ensure there are no significant changes to data that alter current calculations.”