Labour calls for NHS rescue plan to cut waiting lists

An NHS rescue plan is needed to help thousands of people waiting for hospital treatment, the Labour Party says.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has promised to use upcoming NHS legislation and votes in parliament to demand government action for those on hospital waiting lists.

Data from NHS England shows that some 387,885 people had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment as of February 2021.

This is the highest number for any calendar month since December 2007.

A year ago, in February 2020, the number of people having to wait more than 52 weeks to start treatment stood at just 1,613.

The massive increase has been blamed on the coronavirus pandemic, which saw many procedures postponed, pushing up hospital waiting times.

Labour wants a pay rise for NHS staff, a quarterly strategy to tackle waiting lists, and for the health service to be given the workers and equipment needed to deliver cancer care, surgery and mental health care.

Mr Ashworth said: "Leaving patients in limbo waiting for surgery risks their condition worsening, leading to permanent disability, loss of livelihood and, tragically for some, loss of life.

"Labour will be using our voice and vote in parliament to demand action to bring waiting lists down and deliver the very best cancer and mental health care."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "Our NHS has faced huge challenges over the past year due to COVID-19 and we continue to support our incredible health and care staff who have kept services open for thousands of patients.

"This government will back the NHS at every turn, making available £63bn in health services over the last year and an additional £29bn next year.

"This includes £1bn to support NHS recovery by incentivising providers to address backlogs and tackle long waiting lists which have built up because of the pandemic.

"Over one million NHS staff have benefited from a multi-year pay deal agreed with trade unions, which delivered a pay rise of over 12% for newly qualified nurses."

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