Startling revelations today indicate that NHS waiting lists in the UK have surged by an alarming 400,000 since Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged to reduce them. Newly released data from NHS England this morning paints a concerning picture, with waiting lists standing at 7.61 million treatments at the end of November. Although there is a marginal improvement of around 100,000 from the previous month, it remains significantly higher than the 7.19 million waiting list recorded in January last year when Sunak made a commitment to cut waiting times a focal point for voters.
Daisy Cooper, the Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, expressed her concern, stating, “Rather than fulfilling his pledge to reduce waiting lists, Rishi Sunak opted to cut NHS spending. A year later, millions are enduring prolonged waits for necessary treatments, and the numbers have only increased. It’s inconceivable that Conservative ministers are contemplating further cuts to NHS funding, especially after the harm they have already caused. A general election is imperative to remove this out-of-touch government, address NHS and care concerns, and instigate the change the country deserves.”
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting drew attention to the growing number of patients waiting for more than 18 months for treatment. He asserted, “Despite Rishi Sunak’s promise to eliminate the longest waits by last summer, an increasing number of patients find themselves putting their lives on hold for unacceptable durations. The previous Labour government successfully reduced waiting lists from 18 months to 18 weeks. We achieved it before, and we are committed to doing it again.”
Downing Street, on the other hand, attributed the persistent high figures to the ongoing junior doctors’ strike. The Prime Minister’s spokesperson commented, “Waiting lists are still unacceptably high and must be further reduced. November, the first month without industrial action, saw a significant decrease of 95,000, marking the most substantial fall since 2010. This demonstrates the progress NHS staff can make when not contending with industrial action.”
Rishi Sunak’s initial set of commitments included halving inflation, fostering economic growth, reducing national debt, stopping small boats carrying asylum seekers across the Channel, and notably, cutting NHS waiting lists. However, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claims of “progress” on these promises, only one – halving inflation – has unequivocally been achieved.
The current waiting list crisis has sparked concerns about the government’s commitment to healthcare, particularly in the face of plans to further reduce NHS funding. The situation has prompted calls for a general election to address these issues and bring about necessary changes to the healthcare system.
The opposition’s stance is clear; they argue that the government’s failure to meet its targets, especially regarding waiting times, signifies a lack of effective leadership. The rephrased statements from Cooper and Streeting underscore not only the disappointment in unfulfilled promises but also the tangible impact on citizens left in discomfort while awaiting essential medical care.
As the nation contends with the aftermath of the pandemic, the strain on the NHS has become more apparent than ever. The government’s response to this healthcare crisis has become a focal point for public discontent. With waiting lists reaching unprecedented levels, the demand for a comprehensive and effective plan to address growing healthcare needs has never been more urgent. As the political discourse intensifies, the fate of the NHS and the government’s handling of healthcare concerns looms large in the public consciousness.