PM Admits Meeting NHS Waiting List Target Is ‘Very Hard’
The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has admitted that meeting the government’s target to reduce NHS waiting lists by next March will be difficult. The latest data shows that waiting lists, also known as referral to treatment times (RRT) are at a record high of 7.68 million people. This is a rise of over 100,000 since last month.
In a recent interview with BBC News, Mr Sunak blamed the increase on strikes by doctors. He said that the figures were ‘disappointing’, adding: "Industrial action is a significant cause of that. We were making very good progress before industrial action. With industrial action, it's very hard to continue to meet these targets."
However, even when the strikes are taken into account, the NHS still appears to be battling with staffing shortages and a rising number of patients joining the list. The Guardian reports that of particular concern is the number of under-18 year olds waiting for treatment.
There are currently 423,500 children and young people waiting for paediatric care, and over half of them have been waiting for over a year for treatment. Furthermore, only 57% of children have an appointment within 18 weeks, well short of the target of 92%.
There are concerns that the health conditions of children are worsening during the extended waiting times, which could have long-term consequences for their future health and wellbeing.
Dr Camilla Kingdon, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “As a paediatrician, I’ve seen first hand the damaging impact that long waiting times have on children, on their education and overall wellbeing, and of course on their families.”
A government spokesperson responded to concerns by saying that cutting waiting lists is a priority, and that they had invested £300m to fund Family Hubs and Start for Life programmes around England.