The NHS is under pressure in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic with health services across the country struggling to contain bloating waiting lists and facing growing demand for urgent care.

NHS figures show performance has deteriorated across England during the Covid crisis – patients are now waiting longer in A&E departments, for routine cancer treatment and for ambulances.

But how did these services look before the pandemic?

We've taken a look at how health service performance at Hampshire Hospitals Trust compares to three years ago.

Waiting Lists

A record 6.6 million people were waiting for routine, consultant-led hospital treatment in England in May, NHS England figures show.

This included 49,957 waiting for care at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – up from 43,219 last year and 38,626 in May 2019, before the pandemic.

NHS guidance says trusts should aim for 92% of patients to be seen within 18 weeks, but this target has not been met nationally since 2016.

In May, just 64% of patients who started treatment had been on the waiting list for less than 18 weeks, while more than 300,000 (5%) people started treatment after waiting for at least a year.

At Hampshire Hospitals Trust, 63% of the patients who began treatment in May had been waiting up to 18 weeks – down from 88% before the pandemic.

In February, then Health Secretary Sajid Javid set out the post-Covid elective recovery plan for the NHS.

Mr Javid promised no patient will wait more than two years for treatment by July, but the Department for Health and Social Care admitted recently that this target has not been met.

The Nuffield Health Trust said "long waits and delayed care have been stubbornly established throughout the health and care services".

Sarah Scobie, deputy director of research, said: "Staffing shortages, ongoing waves of Covid-19 demand, and backlogs of postponed operations and appointments are having a ripple effect throughout the system and impacting people’s care."


NHS guidance states that 95% of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.

But NHS Digital figures show this target has not been met nationally since 2013, and in May, just 59% of patients across England were seen within four hours – down from 76% in the same month last year and 79% in 2019.

At Hampshire Hospitals Trust, just 65% of 11,763 A&E patients were dealt with within four hours.

This is down from 85% in 2019, before the pandemic.

NHS membership organisation NHS Providers said long waits in A&E are a "symptom of massive pressure right across the health and care system".

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive, said: "In urgent and emergency care especially, demand continues to outstrip capacity and services are under constant strain.

"We need a national urgent and emergency care strategy that looks at the many pressures beyond hospitals."

Cancer Treatment

The pandemic also had a significant impact on cancer services across England, with Covid-related disruption leaving many patients in limbo.

NHS guidance says 85% of cancer patients with an urgent GP referral should begin treatment within 62 days.

Further NHS England figures show 88 people referred for cancer treatment from their GP were treated within 62 days at Hampshire Hospitals Trust.

It meant just 67% of 131 people were seen within the NHS-guided time limit – down from 75% in May 2019, before the pandemic.

Nationally, 61% of people received treatment within 62 days in May – down from 78% in 2019 and well below the 85% target, which has not been met since December 2015.

Macmillan Cancer Support said the data shows "the system is still under huge strain" and urged the Government to prioritise the 10-year cancer plan to ensure the NHS is resourced to provide quality and timely cancer care.

Minesh Patel, head of policy, added: "It is a very turbulent time for cancer care and the wider NHS, and the current uncertainty in Westminster is deeply concerning.

"Cancer cannot wait for the chaos to subside."

Ambulance Response Times

Ambulance trusts have also struggled with growing pressures as a result of the pandemic.

Nationally, the average response time for major emergencies has more than doubled in the last three years, sitting at 51 minutes and 38 seconds in June, NHS England figures show.

The figures show response times in the Central South have also risen significantly throughout the pandemic.

In June 2019, ambulance teams at the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust responded to major emergencies in 16 minutes and 52 seconds.

This rose to 43 minutes and 28 seconds in the same month this year.

What the Government has said

The Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it is growing the workforce with 4,300 more doctors and 10,200 more nurses recruited than last year and has commissioned NHS England to develop a long-term workforce plan.

"NHS staff have been working incredibly hard to bust the Covid backlogs and have treated more than 15 million patients in the last year," a spokesperson said.

"Our community diagnostic centres have delivered over 1.5 million additional checks since July 2021, and the number of people waiting more than two years for treatment has dropped by more than 80% since February."