The virus that shut down the world

NHS waiting lists hit new record high – Agile Workforce explores the true impact of Covid-19


For the past year, this “invisible killer” (as the Prime Minister described it in his national address to the nation) has caused and still is causing untold human suffering and economic devastation around the globe.

This month, the world passed a devastating milestone, with a brutal statistic of three million deaths attributed to Covid-19.  This respiratory virus, in one way or another, has changed the lives of each person on this planet, it has caused devastation, grief, and loss, with no corner of the globe untouched.

As we attempt to adjust to the ‘new norm’, we have found ourselves using new words and phrases; Social distancing, support bubble, furlough and self-isolate are now part of our everyday vocabulary.

The pandemic has been a major shock to the NHS and social care systems, this has resulted in a significant rise in mortality.  As the UK went into lockdown for the first time in March 2020, millions of operations were postponed, after non-emergency surgery was cancelled to free-up beds for the rising number of coronavirus patients.  With waiting list targets already unachieved since 2016, the current pandemic has delayed essential and nonessential surgery with a further increase to patient waiting lists.

Why are hospital waiting lists so long?

Under the referral to treatment scheme, the NHS have a target of 92% patients waiting no more than 18 weeks for their treatment, as mentioned above, this target has not been met since 2016, which in turn has had a knock-on effect to the current Covid related delays. Nearly 388,000 people were waiting more than a year for non-urgent surgery compared with just 1,613 before the pandemic began.

In April 2020, the NHS had to stop treatments for several months due to the necessary mobilisation of the NHS workforce and facilities. Whilst it was crucial to deal with the oncoming wave of coronavirus patients, it resulted in an increasing number of patient’s treatment being delayed - so much so, that fast forward to April 2021, pressure is growing on the government to take urgent steps to tackle waiting time figures, for the almost five million people seeking hospital treatment in England.

A lack of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and long waits for coronavirus test results were also stopping hospitals from tackling the huge backlog in operations. The pandemic took a harsh toll on healthcare professionals with 52,000 NHS staff off sick with Covid and over 850 UK healthcare workers dying from the virus between March and December 2020 - the death toll and the impact on the physical and mental health of healthcare workers are staggering.

These unfortunate circumstances just compounded the problems with the waiting list length and saw it skyrocket.  To solve the waiting list issue is unfortunately not as simple as just seeing people in a certain order. Unfortunately waiting lists are not orderly queues working on a first come first served basis - they are clinical priority lists, stratified into, ‘routine’, ‘soon’ and ‘urgent’.  It's going to take many years to recover the waiting list position to where the NHS want it to be.

The effect of waiting lists on patients

Longer waits for treatment means more patients are having to live with the consequences of debilitating conditions longer, they also have the risk of the condition worsening, requiring more complex, difficult and expensive treatment and in the most extreme examples, conditions becoming permanent and untreatable.

Waiting lists are already having a very negative impact on patients’ lives. Some have missed out on vital assessment and diagnosis, others, whose care is considered non-urgent, like those waiting for a hip replacement or cataract operations, are suffering.

Can we help to reduce the waiting lists?

Insourcing clinical services through Agile is one way to meet growing patient demand and reduce waiting lists offering patients greater choice and flexibility.

Insourcing - not to be confused with outsourcing - is where a third-party provider of secondary care uses an NHS organisation’s premises and equipment to deliver extra clinical capacity, outside of when they are normally in use.

The NHS is going to need a bit of external support to help treat the millions of patients currently on waiting lists, so, Agile is here to help…

We believe Insourcing is a simple, highly successful and cost-effective way to reduce NHS waiting lists.

Our range of workforce solutions help each partner trust to overcome their specific challenges, so they can achieve results that reduce costs and optimise their workforce.

Agile is highly regarded in providing medical recruitment and staffing solutions for the NHS and bring this insight to provide bespoke solutions which, above all, promote and encourage the best in patient care.

  • Highly regarded and long established in the market-place
    We are recognised within the NHS sector for the support and insight we can provide
  • Flexible and responsive
    We have the experience and infrastructure to tailor your solution
  • Market leading IT platform
    Including mobile APP to manage shifts, timesheets and compliance at any time
  • Significant, compliant, quality pool of resources
    Your organisation will benefit from our knowledge and experience in the temporary medical workforce sector
  • Excellent supply chain relationships
    Supported by 100+ leading agencies
  • 24/7 Support
    NHS and private clients have full 24/7 support
  • IS027001 and ISO9001 accredited, and Framework Assured
    We can work with you via your preferred procurement process

For more information on how Agile’s insourcing capabilities can help your trust reduce its waiting list, please contact us on 01756 860095 or

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