The PM said he is “confident” waiting list targets would have been met without strikes.
The Prime Minister has blamed strikes for record-breaking NHS waiting lists.
The latest official NHS figures show a record 7.68 million patients are waiting for treatment at the end of July 2023.
Speaking to BBC News, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak admitted it was “disappointing” the waiting list was growing and blamed the “significant” impact that industrial action has caused.
Mr Sunak claimed, “We were making very good progress before industrial action. With industrial action, it’s very hard to continue to meet these targets.”
He added he is “confident” targets would have been met without strikes.
Strike are not to blame.
The British Medical Association (BMA) says things were worsening even before the pandemic when there were no strikes.
Chair of BMA Council, Professor Philip Banfield said, ” In 2013 there were around two and a half million people on the waiting list and no strikes; just before the pandemic in 2020, that figure was in excess of 4 million, and again no strikes.”
“The truth is that successive Conservative governments have done little to bring the waiting list under control, done little to alleviate the pain, discomfort and lack of safe care for patients and although the strike action will have added to that disruption and the waiting lists, that increase is a drop in the ocean when you look at the figures and rate of increase overall. ”
Before adding, “He demonises the very professions whose expertise he needs, which is a terrible economic mistake. With the huge staffing shortfall across the NHS and social care, the massive challenges in getting patients into hospital for their care and then discharging them back home or into social care settings, meeting that target was unlikely.”
A decade of underinvestment.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has echoed the BMA, blaming “a decade of underinvestment and devaluing of nursing”.
RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis, said: “Nurses across the country will be concerned that the Prime Minister has again missed his target to cut waiting times. It’s bad news for patients – since making his pledge to cut waiting lists in January, they have increased by nearly half a million.
“At the heart of this lies our patients’ safety. Patients can only be safe when there are enough nursing staff to care for them and there are now over 43,000 vacant nursing posts in England’s NHS alone. This is the result of a decade of underinvestment and devaluing of nursing which has put intolerable pressure on the health and care system.”
“With World Patient Safety Day this weekend, patients desperately need to see these waiting lists start to come down.”