Doctors tell Government to be honest with public about scale of NHS backlog

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Tuesday 15 September 2020
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Doctors say the Government needs to develop a public information campaign on the NHS backlog and likely timescale for returning to normal services.

Delegates attending the British Medical Association’s Annual Representative Meeting1 passed a motion2 calling on the Association to work with the Government to develop the campaign – and provide adequate funding to provide capacity to deal with the backlog.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, said:

“During the height of the pandemic, services needed to be overhauled to manage the influx of Covid-19 patients – but this came at the expense of care for many other patients, who were forced to have treatment delayed.

“Now we have a situation where more than 3 million people in England alone are waiting for elective procedures, with many more left in limbo not knowing when they are likely to be seen for what can often be painful and distressing conditions. Doctors are naturally deeply concerned about these patients, and the Government has a duty to the public to be honest about the scale of the backlog and how long it will take to clear – informed by the experiences of clinicians on the ground.

“And while the Government pledged to give the NHS ‘everything it needed’ to fight the early days of the outbreak in Britain, it must now do the same in ensuring the health service has the capacity to address the growing backlog in care, backed by guaranteed investment. The upcoming spending review provides a vital opportunity for the government to commit to additional funding, and in doing so prove its commitment to the NHS and the health of the public.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. For full information and to watch the event visit
  2. The full wording of the motion is as below.




That this meeting notes the backlog of planned care resulting from the COVID-19 emergency and the likely effect on NHS waiting lists, and calls on the BMA to:-

i. work with governments to develop a public information campaign on the likely timescale for the NHS to return to normal routine services; PASSED

ii. demand adequate funding for the NHS to increase its capacity to address the backlog of planned care; PASSED

iii. seek the return of public funds paid to the for-profit private sector to retain capacity which was under-used during the pandemic; PASSED

iv. promote the invitation of all patients on waiting lists to opt into a rescheduled appointment and an optional primary care review of the appointment’s appropriateness. DID NOT PASS