NHS needs an urgent rescue plan amid ‘shocking’ waiting list, Labour says

NHS needs an urgent rescue plan amid ‘shocking’ waiting list, Labour says
Research finds more than 13,000 children have been waiting over a year for paediatric services

Labour is calling for a comprehensive plan to rescue the NHS after new research has uncovered the extent of the waiting list crisis across the country.

Analysis of waiting time figures found patients are routinely left for 18 weeks for treatment, with those for specific surgeries being left for even longer.

There are now close to a quarter of a million people that have been waiting more than 18 weeks for trauma and orthopaedic surgery, with 57,488 on hold for more than 52 weeks.

Patients hoping for treatments such as oral surgery, ear, nose and throat surgery or opthalmology can also expect to be waiting for four and a half months or more.

The research also found more than 13,000 children have been waiting at least a year for paediatric services, and 155 people have been waiting at the same time for mental health support.

Labour has called for a recovery plan to be introduced before winter to help tackle the growing waiting list – including a guarantee that patients will receive treatment within 52 weeks – and support the health service as it struggles to overcome the backlog caused by the Covid pandemic.

The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, has demanded a quarterly plan of action from ministers that will also ensure the NHS has the staff and equipment to deliver all care – for both physical and mental health.

He said: “Patients in every town and city are forced to endure lengthening waits for treatment in debilitating pain and facing anxiety at the risk of permanent disability.

“Increasing numbers are forced to take out loans to go private while others have no option but to suffer ongoing agony and discomfort for months.

He added: “Ultimately, patients are paying the price for Tory failure to support the NHS and staff over the past decade – leaving the service understaffed, with beds cut and lacking the diagnostic equipment needed.”

The last Labour government was able to uphold patients’ NHS constitution right to receive routing treatment within 18 weeks, Ashworth said, yet under Boris Johnson the NHS is “on its knees”.

He added: “Patients in pain will be asking whether Boris Johnson’s promises on the NHS are meaningless. Ministers must now take the action needed to prevent people becoming seriously ill, to deliver care on time, and return the NHS to the world class service it should be.”