The NHS Long Term Plan remains the blueprint for the NHS’s evolution, but the pandemic has dealt a huge blow to both the NHS and social care. In this report, the authors provide a narrative of what was achieved before the pandemic, assemble the evidence of how the pandemic has affected progress against the plan’s major commitments, and identify implications for the future as the NHS and government plans its recovery from the pandemic.

The analysis finds that the core principles set out in the long term plan remain as relevant now as they were before COVID-19, but their implementation has been derailed. The NHS now faces major delay, disruption and increased demands on services. Waiting lists for hospital care are the worst on record, at over 5.45 million at the end of June 2021. Significant additional investment has been promised, but major unknowns around the future course of the pandemic mean there is considerable uncertainty over whether this will be enough.

Alongside the recent funding increase for the NHS, government must now work with the NHS to develop an updated strategy for delivering the NHS Long Term Plan. And while the government’s focus on reducing the NHS backlog is welcome it should not come at the expense of addressing health inequalities already widened by COVID-19.

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