Record waiting lists are predictable but not an inevitability, says BMA

by BMA media team

BMA press release.

Location: England
Published: Thursday 12 October 2023

Responding to new NHS England performance figures, which show the number of people waiting for treatment in England is now at 7.75 million, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said:

“Sadly, headlines around the waiting list reaching a new ‘record high’ are now a monthly occurrence.

“An extra 65,000 people needing care, on top of the 7.67 million the previous month, means another 65,000 waiting often in pain and unable to live life to the fullest.

“The Government would like everyone to believe that the waiting list is solely the fault of striking doctors – but the public refuses to have the wool pulled over their eyes. Today’s data in fact shows that the waiting list grew at a higher rate last year when no strikes were taking place, compared with the period since March when doctors began taking industrial action1.

“Doctors are not to blame for the current crisis, rather they are an essential part of the solution to it.

“By recognising and addressing the real-terms pay cuts doctors have experienced, the Government could not only hope to bring the pay disputes to an end, but keep doctors working in the NHS to make some headway in bringing the waiting list down – and making its key pledge on this a reality. But it must be recognised that the waiting lists can only be tackled meaningfully when years of cuts to beds have been fully reversed and historic staffing shortages fully addressed.

“While new records every month are predictable, they don’t have to be an inevitability.”

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. 

  1. Between March 2022 and August 2022 the waiting list grew by more than 700,000, or by 11%. Whereas between March 2023 and August 2023, the waiting list grew by over 400,000 - or by 6%. Junior doctors strikes in England began in March 2023.

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