Monday 26 April 2021 / 10:30 PM Jonathan Ashworth / NHS

Labour highlights scandal of lengthening waiting lists

Labour is today calling for an NHS rescue plan that would see patient care prioritised in the recovery from the Covid pandemic as Jonathan Ashworth pledges to use upcoming NHS legislation and votes in parliament to demand action from Government.

New research from the Labour Party reveals the huge increase in waiting lists over the past 12-months, with hundreds of thousands of people waiting more than the 18-week maximum for treatment and thousands more waiting over a year.

Shockingly, over 366,194 patients are waiting more than a year for treatment – one in 12 people on the waiting list. In January 2020, the number waiting over a year was just 1,643.

The number of people waiting more than 18-weeks for treatment has risen in all 18 treatment areas, leaving thousands of extra patients waiting months for surgery or hospital care.

Overall, the number of people waiting more than a year for treatment now compared to before the pandemic hit has risen over 200 per cent.

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has today called for an NHS recovery plan. Ashworth has demanded:

  • A quarterly plan from ministers on action being taken to bring down waiting lists
  • A NHS rescue plan to ensure the NHS has the staff and modern equipment to deliver the cancer care, surgery and mental health care patients deserve.
  • Strengthen the NHS constitution to eliminate waits over 52-weeks and offer a cast iron guarantee
  • A fair pay rise for NHS staff

The 18-week maximum waiting time set out in the NHS constitution, gave patients the right to access treatment within this maximum waiting time. The number of people waiting longer than this 4.5-month maximum has been steadily climbing over the past few years, before seeing a significant rise over the course of the pandemic. For almost five-years, patients’ NHS constitution right to receive routine treatment within 18-weeks of a referral has not been upheld – the last time the statutory target for 92 per cent of patients to be waiting 18 weeks or less for treatment was met nationally was in 2016.

Of those waiting more than the maximum, thousands are waiting for more than a year for treatment, including over 22,000 waiting for gynaecology appointments, over 4,500 people waiting for cardiology appointments, 26,000 waiting for oral surgery and over 3,700 waiting for brain surgery. The number of people waiting over a year continues to rise month on month.

Commenting, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“Years of underfunding and cutbacks meant we entered the crisis with waiting lists growing and targets for cancer treatment missed.

“But there shouldn’t have to be a choice between Covid care and cancer care.

“It is now crucial that ministers provide hospitals, our NHS staff and patients with a fully resourced rescue plan to bring waiting lists down.

“That starts with giving our NHS staff a fair pay rise and recruiting the extra doctors and nurses we need for the future. And we need the very best cutting edge technology and equipment to deliver the standards of care people deserve.

“Leaving patients in limbo waiting for surgery risks their condition worsening leading to permanent disability, loss of livelihood and tragically for some loss of life.

“Labour will be using our voice and vote in parliament to demand action to bring waiting lists down and deliver the very best cancer and mental health care.”