NHS waits could exceed eight million by summer
According to modelling work by the charity Health Foundation, NHS waiting lists could reach eight million by next summer, regardless of whether doctor strikes end.
According to the report, industrial action has only contributed a small amount, adding about 210,000 to the 7.75 million total.
NHS staff shortages and funding shortages are the main factors, according to the report.
There have been more than one million appointments and procedures rescheduled due to NHS strikes, according to NHS England.
In England, nurses and other healthcare professionals walked out to demand higher wages.
It is a “positive” sign that NHS referrals for treatment are now back to pre-pandemic levels, and growing at a faster pace, according to NHS England and the Health Foundation.
While the number of treatments does not yet exceed the number of referrals, the waiting list is still growing.
The numbers mask “people waiting for a diagnosis, people in avoidable pain, and people whose lives have been put on hold”, says Charles Tallack, from the Health Foundation.
From hip replacements to cancerous tumor surgery, patients are waiting for treatment.
A stressed system was further burdened by the pandemic, but waiting lists had already been growing long before Covid.
A spokeswoman for the NHS said there had been considerable progress in reducing the longest waits: “Two-year waits have virtually been eliminated, and waits of more than 65 weeks have been more than halved.”
There is still a high level of demand for healthcare in the NHS, she said.