NHS waiting list in England rises to record 7.7m

by | Sep 14, 2023 | Health

Getty ImagesBy Nick TriggleHealth correspondentA record 7.68 million people are on a hospital waiting list in England, figures show.The total at the end of July represents nearly one in seven people and is a jump of more than 100,000 in a month.The news prompted Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to say meeting his target to reduce the waiting list would be “very hard”, pinning the blame on strikes.Walkouts by doctors were a “significant cause” of the rise, he said – and with no strikes, the target would be met.It comes as the government has announced an extra £200m for the NHS this winter, following talks with health bosses on Wednesday.This is on top of a £250m boost already announced earlier in the summer, which is helping pay for 5,000 extra hospital beds and 10,000 virtual beds where patients are supported at home by doctors for conditions such as respiratory and heart problems that would normally lead to a hospital admission.The NHS backlog: Who are the 7 million?Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he wanted to see “high impact” interventions to help the NHS get through winter.On the waiting list, which covers people needing routine treatments such as knee and hip operations, he agreed the strikes were having an impact, driving up the numbers and “harming” patients.Close to a million appointments and treatments have had to be postponed since industrial action in the NHS began in December.But Mr Barclay pointed out progress had been made on the very long waits, with the numbers waiting more than 18 months close to being eliminated.Are strikes to blame?The waiting list had been creeping up in the decade before the pandemic.When Covid hit, the numbers rose by nearly three million in just over two years.But during last winter, that rise appeared to have plateaued. For six months from September, the total on the waiting list changed little.Modelling had suggested this was likely to last a year, before the total number started falling.But the data in March showed the numbers rising again – and this has continued ever since.March was the month doctors’ strikes began – and they are the most disruptive.There can be other reasons why the waiting list can go up – factors such as staffing shortages can lead to cancelled treatments too.Even taking into account the impact of the strikes the NHS is still doing fewer operations for example than it was before the pandemic.The NHS does not appear to be firing on all cylinders even when there is no strike action.The numbers needing care and joining the waiting list are also going up too.Coming to a definitive conclusion is very hard.Are doctors still striking?Next week will see junior doctors and consultants in England walk out at the same time for the first time in the history of the NHS.Consultants will take strike action on Tuesday and Wednesday, while junior doctors start their three-day walkout on Wednesday.Emergency care will be staffed throughout.Both groups are planning more strikes next month.Pay talks have stalled and ministers are calling this year’s rise – consultants will receive 6% extra and junior doctors nearly 9% – a “fair and final” settlement.BMA leader Prof Philip Banfield said: “If the health secretary really wants to support the NHS then his next step should be to re-open talks with doctors and come to the table with a credible offer to put an end to strikes and to demonstrate he does really care about our patients.”Louise Ansari, head of patient watchdog Healthwatch England, said she feared long waits for care were “inevitable” for some time to come.”With demand for care likely to rise this winter, people need to have confidence in NHS services,” she said.”However, our research shows that people’s confidence in accessing timely care now is lower than it was at the start of the year.” Are you on an NHS waiting list? You can get in touch by emailing [email protected] include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also get in touch in the following ways:WhatsApp: +44 7756 165803Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSayUpload pictures or videoPlease read our terms & conditions and privacy policy

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