The government was making progress on reducing waiting lists but then strikes happened across the health service.
The Prime Minister has blamed strike action for rising NHS waiting lists.
Speaking on LBC yesterday morning, Mr Sunak said: “If you look at what happened, we were actually making progress – we eliminated the number of two-year waiters, people waiting a very long time, we practically eliminated the number of people waiting one and a half years.
“And we were making progress on bringing the overall numbers down – what happened? We had industrial action and we got strikes.”
He added that “unfortunately” doctors were still on strike – “that is the reason waiting lists are going up, it’s as simple as that”.
Nurses in England voted to end strike action by accepting a 5% pay rise earlier this year, but this now transpires to be the smallest rise across the public sector.
Unions have dubbed Mr Sunak’s comments as “a low blow” as staff were striking over deteriorating care standards alongside pay and working conditions.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s comments, Royal College of Nursing Director for England, Patricia Marquis said: “This comment adds insult to injury. Blaming nurses for the state of the NHS is a low blow. Nursing staff voted to strike last year out of concern at deteriorating care standards and spiralling waiting times.
“Waiting lists were growing long before the pandemic and strike action – and the prime minister should take responsibility for the knife-edge position of the NHS and not point the finger.
“Nursing staff are doing everything they can but simply don’t have enough people to give patients the care they need. And the distress that this causes affects staff’s health, eventually leading to complete demoralisation and to nurses leaving the NHS.
“One way the government can address the crisis in the health service, and help ensure patients get the care they need, is by valuing the nursing profession properly and paying nurses fairly – otherwise we’ll see nurses continue to leave in their droves.”