In England more than 120,000 people died last year while on an NHS waiting list for treatment – double the number recorded in 2018. It’s a stark reminder of the impacts of long waits for care.
While the additional pressure of Covid and the resulting backlogs will clearly have had an impact on these figures, there’s no dodging the fact that more than 13 years of Tory underinvestment in staff, beds, equipment and the NHS’s crumbling infrastructure has played a huge role in the crisis.
Sceptics will quite rightly claim that the 120,000 figure does not accurately account for variation between NHS trusts. Nor does it link deaths to cause of death, or provide any further details on the person’s age and medical conditions. It doesn’t account for the nuance of each individual case. Indeed, it does very little in itself to illustrate the pain and agony that individuals and their families are experiencing in their final months while waiting for treatment that never comes.
As such, the 120,000 figure merely emphasises the potential scale of avoidable human tragedy when waiting lists balloon to 7.6 million – a figure that indicates that almost one in seven of us is waiting for treatment.
As waiting lists are set to increase further in the coming winter months – potentially reaching the nine million predicted by the Tories’ own ex-health secretary, Sajid Javid – Rishi Sunak’s key election pledge to cut NHS waiting lists lies in shreds.
This is a tragedy of the Prime Minister and his Chancellor’s own making, born of their failure to get to grips with the key issues affecting the NHS, and their disgraceful ideologically-driven refusal to enter into meaningful discussions with the British Medical Association over pay and conditions of those that give us care.
- Pat Osborne
North Dorset Labour