Getting people off NHS waiting lists would bring benefits worth £73bn between now and 2027.
A total of 7.2 million people are on an NHS waiting list for operations ranging from hip replacements to cataract removal, or for ‘elective treatments’ for conditions such as endometriosis that have significant impact on quality of life and will worsen if not treated promptly.
Projecting the economic benefits of the NHS Elective Recovery Plan, a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research and LCP Health Analytics, probed the diverse economic benefits of tackling the backlog. These included a valuation of the non-monetary benefits that are not included in traditional measures of economic output, such as GDP.
The government and NHS England’s post-Covid Elective Recovery Plan commits to delivering 30% more treatments a year than before the pandemic by 2025. This would mean 12m completed treatments during the next five years, according to the research, bringing NHS elective waiting lists below 500,000 by the end of 2026.
Clearing the backlog would generate £18bn through people returning to work or increasing their working hours. A further £55bn would be generated by the unpaid work that benefits people and society but does not count towards GDP, such as childcare, caring for sick or elderly relatives, unpaid domestic work and volunteering, all of which contribute indirectly to the economy. The study also estimates that £14bn would be saved by government and households through lower spending on health and social care services and informal care services.