Latest waiting lists numbers show the health service is facing a crisis, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Thursday 13 May 2021
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Responding to today’s NHS data on waiting list times in England, Dr Rob Harwood, BMA consultants’ committee chair, said:

“Following the most difficult year many of us have ever faced, we are now heading into another crisis – the number of people on waiting lists at record levels, coupled with exhausted doctors. Today’s statistics, showing that nearly five million people are waiting for planned hospital treatment, are a reminder that despite Covid hospitalisations falling, the health service now faces a challenge of almost equal magnitude.

“More than 430,000 people have waited over one year for routine operations but these are not just numbers on a chart, they are people; people who are in pain, who are suffering and who are frustrated. As doctors we want to help alleviate this distress and provide the care they need. But in order to do this effectively, there has to be honesty from the Government, with communications aimed at the general public about the real time this will take to work through.

Yesterday’s announcement of a £160m boost will only go a small way towards tackling the waiting lists. In a recent report the BMA estimated that it will cost more than £4bn just to clear the backlog of patients in England needing elective care. In fact, a recent BMA Covid tracker survey found that thousands of doctors are planning to leave the profession or retire early, and these plans from NHSE fail to acknowledge that the current workforce is simply too tired and too small to clear the waiting lists.

“All healthcare staff are exhausted and we have made recommendations on how they could rest and recover so they are better able to approach the next few years and tackle this enormous waiting list. The UK Government must put together a credible strategy, including a recovery plan, that demonstrates how the health and wellbeing of all staff will be monitored and prioritised as we head into this next phase.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and 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.