NHS workers on the Unite union strike rally in Trafalgar Square, London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Waiting lists for routine hospital care in England have hit yet another record. It’s the latest blow to Rishi Sunak’s hopes that he will meet his pledge that the backlog will be falling by the election expected next year.

About 7.7 million patients had yet to start treatment at the end of July, a rise of more than 100,000 compared with the end of June, according to figures published by NHS England on Thursday. 

The number of people waiting more than 12 months increased from 383,083 to 389,952, while 7,289 patients were waiting more than 18 months, up from 7,177, underlining the health service’s continued failure to meet a target to eliminate all 18-month waits by April this year.

Behind each of these statistics are people in pain, unable to work, forced into poverty and often feeling tired, angry and depressed. Figures released this week 2.6 million people out of work due to long-term sickness, a record high.

Cancer Research UK said an array of key cancer targets had been missed. Michelle Mitchell, the charity’s chief executive, said, “These figures are among the worst on record and represent anxious delays faced by patients and the immense pressure on NHS staff.”

Recent figures show 13 percent fewer students on nursing courses and 43,000 nursing vacancies in the NHS in England alone.

The government pointed to a meagre £200 million it has earmarked for the NHS this winter.

But the BMA doctors’ union council chair Philip Banfield said, “How can health secretary Steve Barclay claim to be shoring up the NHS for winter while at the same time refusing to engage with the doctors he needs to deliver that care?

“The government would do well to remember that our NHS treats patients all year round and winter funding is only one part of a much bigger picture.

“It’s been 135 and 171 days since Mr Barclay met with junior doctors and consultants, respectively.”

Junior doctors and consultants are set to strike next week, and their action is the best chance to win better pay and to win funding for the NHS.

Consultants plan to strike on 19 and 20 Sept, junior doctors on 20-22 Sept. Both groups will be out on 20 Sept. And more action is planned for October during the Tory conference. See our strike calender here.

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