Prime Minister blaming doctors for record-breaking waiting list is a ‘cheap shot’, says BMA

by BMA Media

BMA press release

Location: England
Published: Thursday 14 September 2023
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Responding to the comments made by the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, that the doctors’ strike action is a significant cause of the increase in the waiting list and that without industrial action, Government targets on waiting list reductions would have been met, the Chair of BMA Council, Professor Philip Banfield said:

“For the Prime Minister to blame doctors for over seven and a half million patients on the waiting list is just a cheap shot. In 2013 there were around two and a half million people on the waiting list and no strikes; just before the pandemic in 2020, that figure was in excess of 4 million, and again no strikes. After the pandemic, when doctors had given their all, it had shot up to over six and a half million, and no doctors were on strike. The truth is that successive Conservative governments have done little to bring the waiting list under control, done little to alleviate the pain, discomfort and lack of safe care for patients and although the strike action will have added to that disruption and the waiting lists, that increase is a drop in the ocean when you look at the figures and rate of increase overall. That is not to negate the impact on any patient who is having to wait, but the vast majority are on that waiting list due to Government neglect of our health and social care services, not doctors striking.

“Given the sheer scale of the problem, the fact that the waiting list has continued climbing year upon year, and he refuses to invest properly, it is unbelievable that the Prime Minister seriously thought he had any chance of meeting the target he’s set. He demonises the very professions whose expertise he needs, which is a terrible economic mistake. With the huge staffing shortfall across the NHS and social care, the massive challenges in getting patients into hospital for their care and then discharging them back home or into social care settings, meeting that target was unlikely. It’s very convenient to blame the strikes for his failures, but it’s not too late to turn things around. Our door remains open to end these disputes, even if his is closed.”

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.