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ALMOST five million people are waiting for NHS treatment, new figures revealed today.
Management body NHS England said that 4.7 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February 2021 – the highest figure since records began in 2007.
In February 387,885 people had waited more than a year.
This is the highest monthly figure since December 2007, and up from just 1,613 in February last year.
The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) estimates that there are more than 36,000 unfilled nursing vacancies.
Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “Ten years of Tory underfunding, cuts and chronic staff shortages left the NHS exposed when the pandemic hit last year.
“Patients are now left paying the price with waiting lists at record highs.
“It’s a shocking indictment of 10 years of Conservative government risking significant long-term illness and permanent disability for thousands of people.”
RCN chief executive and general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair said: “Ministers must now be honest about the real pressures on the NHS and properly invest in the workforce that is needed for the long-term delivery of safe patient care.”
She said that the government’s 1 per cent pay proposal would not avoid “an exodus of the staff needed for the recovery of the NHS.”
Unite today accused the government of instigating an “accelerating pace of NHS privatisation and sleaze,” and said that “a culture of Tory cronyism is rapidly enveloping the NHS.”
This culture includes the current lobbying scandal by former prime minister David Cameron and the handing of billions of pounds to privateers for failed Covid-19 projects such as test and trace, the union said.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “The Tories, since they came to power in 2010, have followed a consistent policy of privatising the NHS.
“While NHS staff have worked themselves to the bone in caring for Covid-19 patients and then delivering the successful vaccination programme, Tory politicians have been collaborating in seeing that lucrative NHS contracts are delivered to their chums in the private sector.
“A culture of Tory cronyism is rapidly enveloping the NHS.
“There has to be a moment of reckoning to see who this government really seeks to serve: the public or its friends and chums in this clique?”
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