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‘Neglect of social care’ could cause NHS wait times to exceed to eight million

NHS strikes have been countlessly blamed for increasing treatment wait times. Although, a new report has found other factors are more likely to ramp them up by summer 2024.

Yesterday the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to supplying better health and care for people, published their new report which highlighted that NHS strikes only contributed to a small growth of NHS wait times.

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Researchers found that in August 2023, 7.75 million were on the NHS wait list for treatment – the highest figure since records began in 2007.

‘Behind these numbers are people anxious for a diagnosis, patients in avoidable pain and lives put on hold,’ said Charles Tallack, director of data analysis at the Health Foundation. ‘While industrial action has a range of impacts on NHS organisations, the strikes have only directly resulted in a small increase in the size of the overall waiting list.’

Charles added: ‘Ministers have been quick to blame industrial action for the lack of progress in reducing the waiting list, but the roots of this crisis lie in a decade of underinvestment in the NHS, a failure to address chronic staff shortages and the longstanding neglect of social care.’

The research highlighted that industrial strikes only caused wait times to increase by 3%, which is equivalent to 210,000 of the 7.75 million total.

However, the government has placed the majority of the blame on strikes, stating action ‘needs to end’ as soon as possible.

A vast amount of health groups have been striking since December 2022, which is when nurses were the first to stage a walkout in a dispute over pay.

Since then, radiographers, ambulance drivers, junior doctors, physios, and consultants have all followed suit. Last month, junior doctors and consultants ramped up their efforts as they walked out for the first time together for three days.

Although, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said consultants will hold off calling more strikes until November to give time for negotiations with the government, while the junior doctors committee at the BMA said it had also agreed talks with the government next week. However, the latter has said pay will not be up for discussion.

Research that has been undertaken by the Health Foundation, which has been called ‘sobering’ by Tim Mitchell – president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England – only considers strikes that have been staged by junior doctors and consultants.

Tim said: ‘Waiting lists have ballooned over the past decade due to underinvestment and workforce shortages.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these pressures.

‘While industrial action has contributed to delays, the roots of this crisis precede the strikes.’

Image: Andrik Langfield

More on this topic:

Private healthcare is not a silver bullet for cutting NHS wait times, study finds

Prime Minister promises to slash NHS wait times

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