NHS Waiting Lists Hit Record High Despite Sunak Promise To Bring Them Down

It's another blow to the prime minister's five pledges to voters.
A general view of staff on a NHS hospital ward at Ealing Hospital in London.
A general view of staff on a NHS hospital ward at Ealing Hospital in London.
Jeff Moore - PA Images via Getty Images

NHS waiting lists have hit another record high, despite Rishi Sunak’s pledge to bring them down.

The prime minister made cutting them one of his five pledges to voters at the start of the year.

But new figures released by NHS England this morning show that an estimated 7.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of June, up from 7.5 million in May.

It is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

Speaking in January, Sunak said: “NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.”

He said his pledges - which also included halving inflation, growing the economy, cutting national debt and stopping the small boats - were “the people’s priorities, they are your government’s priorities and we will either have achieved them or not”.

He added: “No tricks, no ambiguity - we’re either delivering for you or we’re not.

“We will rebuild trust in politics through action, or not at all. So, I ask you to judge us on the effort we put in and the results we achieve.”

The NHS data also showed that the number of people waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment had fallen from 385,022 to 383,083 at the end of June.

Ministers have said they will eliminate all waits of more than 52 weeks by next spring.

Meanwhile, the government is also failing to hit its target of ending all waits of more than 18 months.

Sunak has said he wanted to eliminate them by April, but today’s figures show that 7,177 were waiting longer than a year and a half, although that is down from 11,446 at the end of May.

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour’s shadow minister for mental health, said: “One in eight people are now waiting for NHS treatment, more than ever before. Patients are waiting in pain and discomfort for months or even years.

“Rishi Sunak has no plan to turn this around, he only offers excuses. He blames hard-working doctors and nurses, yet he hasn’t lifted a finger to stop the strikes.

Daisy Cooper, Lib Dem health spokeswoman, said the figures showed health secretary Steve Barclay was “not up to the job and owes the public an apology”.

“He says his main focus has been bringing down the waiting list, but he is failing miserably, leaving millions in pain and discomfort,” she said.

“This Conservative government should hang their heads in shame. Rishi Sunak needs to bring forward a proper plan to bring down waiting times as a matter of urgency.”


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