As numbers on NHS waiting lists grow, this campaign group is fighting back

A hospital patient speaking with staff
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Activists are calling for the government to take action to tackle the record number of people waiting for treatment on the NHS.

Campaign group We Own It wants ministers to increase funding to the NHS to enable it to get through the 5.45 million people currently awaiting treatment. Figures from June show that there has been an increase in the number of people waiting more than two years for treatment.

Waiting lists

The number of people on waiting lists for treatment is at the highest point its been since August 2007 when records began. Furthermore, waiting times for ambulances are at the longest they’ve been in July since 2017 when “a new way of logging calls was introduced”, according to the BBC.

The pressure from coronavirus (Covid-19) has added to waiting lists that were already growing before the pandemic. However, the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks or a year did decrease between May and June.

Funding cuts

We Own It says a decade of funding cuts to the NHS is to blame for the increasingly long waiting lists. Cuts to training of nurses and privatisation over the last decade have been accused of hobbling the NHS.

After his election in 2019, Boris Johnson promised to raise NHS spending by nearly £34bn by 2023-24. According to analysis by Full Fact, this is the biggest real-terms increase in funding since 2004/5 – 2009/10.

However, both the King’s Fund and the Health Foundation said at the time that the increase was not enough to support NHS services to tackle waiting lists.

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After the chancellor announced in 2019 the spending round for 2020/21 would include a 2.9% increase in budget for the Department of Health and Social Care, Health Foundation Director Anita Charlesworth said a minimum of 3.3% was needed to maintain the NHS’s workforce and services.

She said:

undoing the impact of nine years of austerity will take more than one year of increased spending and major challenges remain for health, social care and the wider public services that drive health outcomes and inequality. This is essentially a spending round that papers over the cracks.

In the wake of the pandemic, the King’s Fund has continued to call for increased investment into the NHS to tackle the treatment backlog. It further recommends additional funding every year to increase staff, primary care appointments, and hospitals.

Campaign launch

We Own It particularly highlighted the role of the Health and Care Bill in potentially allowing private companies to sit on NHS health boards – and has called on health secretary Sajid Javid to halt privatisation.

The campaign group is launching a campaign to tell the government “We Won’t Wait!” on 4 September. There will be rallies outside parliament in London, at Holyrood in Edinburgh, as well as in the town of Skelmersdale in Lancashire.

Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It, said:
The government are trying to use the pandemic as an excuse, but the reality is that the NHS has been systematically undermined and under-funded for decades – the current backlog is the tip of the iceberg. We can’t let the NHS crumble under the pressure – the only solution is to provide a proper amount of funding – for safe staffing levels, sufficient equipment and adequate facilities.

Featured image via Flickr/Northern Ireland Office

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