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NHS waiting lists rise again: Private health industry ‘rubbing its hands’ at rising profits, campaigners warn

DOCTORS’ union the BMA slammed the Prime Minister today for blaming ballooning NHS waiting lists on industrial action.  

Rishi Sunak made reducing NHS waiting lists a key Tory pledge in January 2023.

But new figures show numbers have since soared by 350,000, with 7.57 million treatments still waiting to be carried out at the end of April.

This is despite changes to reporting which now exclude patients waiting for treatment by community services.

During a Sky News election event in Grimsby on Wednesday, Mr Sunak attempted to shift the blame, saying: “I think everyone knows the impact the industrial action has had, that’s why we haven’t made as much [progress].”

The remarks prompted collective boos from the audience. 

Professor Phil Banfield, BMA chairman of council, hit back that “waiting lists had already increased by over 5 million during 13 years of this government before strikes began.

“Clearly it isn’t doctors to blame for the waiting list, but this government’s poor stewardship of the NHS."

At Labour’s manifesto launch today, the party pledged to bring down waiting lists by creating 40,000 new appointments per week.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who has taken £175,000 from donors linked to private health firms, unveiled plans in April to use the private sector to help cut the NHS backlog.

Johnbosco Nwogbo, lead campaigner at campaign group We Own It, said: “The NHS treats in 36 hours what Britain’s largest private hospital chain, Spire Healthcare, treats in a whole year. 

“The CEO of Spire Healthcare, Justin Ash, has said that the private sector will not be able to help cut NHS waiting lists.

“Using the private sector won’t make a difference on waiting lists; it’ll only make a difference to the bottom lines of private health companies.” 

Keep Our NHS Public co-chair Dr Tony O’Sullivan said: “Whereas others, including the SNP and the Greens, commit to the NHS as a publicly provided service, Labour does not — stopping at ‘publicly funded and owned.’

“Asked to provide NHS services, private health industry is rubbing its hands at rising profits, and it has no interest in ending the waiting lists. 

“Just as in the 2000s, that task will fall to the NHS, not the ‘independent sector.’ 

“The NHS requires urgent funding and a policy commitment to end private healthcare.”

The government originally set a target of eliminating 65-week-long waits by March – but this has now been moved to September. 

The figures follow an analysis by Cancer Research UK which found that 380,000 cancer patients have not been treated on time since 2015.

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