NHS waiting lists hit new record high of 7.77million as strikes take 'significant' toll | The Sun
THE NHS waiting list has hit another record high as senior medics warned of a “chaotic and dangerous spiral of decline” in the health service.
Some 7.77million appointments were being waited for by people in England at the end of September, up from 7.75million in August.
Emergency departments also faced their busiest October on record, with 2.2million rushing to A&Es last month.
Doctors say the data suggests the situation will only get worse over the coming months.
Dr Tim Cooksley, of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “With a sense of tragic inevitability, patients will endure long waits, degrading corridor care and inevitable harm over winter.
“We are imminently in, and many hospitals are already experiencing, a further chaotic and dangerous situation to which there is no easy solution.
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“There was an increase in delays of more than 12 hours in emergency departments which is truly terrible for patients.”
Health officials and the Government have both highlighted ongoing strike action in the NHS for hindering attempts to address the backlog.
Industrial action has cost the health service more than £1billion since it started last December.
Hospitals in England are being allowed to cut back on some pre-planned care to cover the costs of strikes.
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Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “These strikes have had a significant impact on patients and staff, and created unavoidable financial costs.
“Today's figures are a stark reminder of the ongoing pressures the NHS is facing, particularly in emergency care with significant demand for ambulances and A&E.”
Professor Vivien Lees, of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "Winter pressures have already started to affect the system.
"We are concerned that with increased demand, record staff vacancies and industrial action, this will all continue to hold back recovery efforts. "
The latest data show the overall waiting list is made up of 6.5million individual patients, with many waiting for multiple treatments.
The figure is a million higher than the 5.5million estimated by NHS England elective recovery chief Sir Jim Mackey last November.
An extra million patients are on waiting lists compared to this time last year, forced to put their lives on hold, in pain and discomfort
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made cutting waiting lists one of his five key priorities in January but numbers have continued to increase month-on-month.
Royal College of Nursing chief nurse Professor Nicola Ranger, said: “The government has lost control of NHS waiting times and the record numbers waiting increases each month on their watch."
Wes Streeting, Labour's shadow health secretary, said: "Rishi Sunak’s pledge to cut waiting lists has effectively been abandoned, with the Prime Minister’s choosing to blame NHS staff instead of fixing the problem himself.
"An extra million patients are on waiting lists compared to this time last year, forced to put their lives on hold, in pain and discomfort."
Liberal Democrat health and social care spokesperson Daisy Cooper said: “Sunak’s NHS pledge lies in tatters. He’s failed patients, failed NHS staff and failed the country."
Despite the strains caused by strikes, the health service has reduced the number of people waiting the longest for appointments.
Year-long waits dropped to 391,122 in September, down from 396,643 the month before.
The figures also showed 2,800 cancer patients waited more than a month to start treatment in September — the second highest number on record.
Minesh Patel, of MacMillan Cancer Support, said: “It is disappointing to yet again see that waiting times for cancer tests and treatment in England have worsened.
“These delays can have a devastating impact on people’s lives and result in a worse prognosis.”
Stage four lung cancer patient Jules Fielder, 39, from East Sussex, said the pressures are making people who live with cancer “feel helpless”.
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She said: “A few days after my CT scans I’ll ring up to see if my results are in. If I don't push for it, I don't know how long I would sit in the system before I'd get called and told my results.
“I feel like I have to fight and advocate for myself. If I didn’t, I’d get left behind. I am constantly fighting to live.”
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