Sunak’s waiting list pledge ‘downgraded’ as NHS is told to control costs | NHS

Rishi Sunak’s pledge to slash NHS waiting lists has successfully been downgraded, the Observer has been told, amid a rise within the variety of sufferers in England waiting longer than 18 months for therapy.

Hospital leaders are warning that morale is low, workers absences are excessive, and funds for brand spanking new gear and repairs are having to be raided forward of winter. They have now been told to prioritise controlling costs in favour of a few of the further work being achieved in direction of the prime minister’s pledge to deliver down waits.

The information comes as the most recent information reveals that one key waiting time goal is heading within the flawed route. The variety of individuals waiting greater than 18 months for therapy climbed again above 10,000 in September – an identical stage to that recorded in March, and up from 8,998 in August.

With trusts already pissed off that they won’t be absolutely compensated for costs created by NHS strikes, hospital leaders and analysts mentioned {that a} memo despatched final week successfully signalled the downgrading of No 10’s battle in opposition to waiting lists.

The memo said that to present “how you will deliver financial balance”, trusts wanted a therapy plan “identifying the insourcing/outsourcing and waiting list initiatives you still consider necessary within a balanced financial plan”. One NHS finance chief mentioned they believed it was the primary time in a decade that that they had been told the “bottom line for the NHS” this winter was “the financial bottom line”.

Sally Gainsbury, senior coverage analyst on the Nuffield Trust, mentioned the NHS was in a “precarious” place going into winter. “The NHS has now been asked to scale back the additional efforts and expenditure it was incurring in order to work through the record-high elective backlog – waiting lists – and focus instead on emergency and urgent cases,” she mentioned. “The message is that additional expenditure to scale back the waiting list – such as further weekend clinics and theatres – simply isn’t reasonably priced throughout the price range constraints, so it is severe, particularly for sufferers who could have already got been on a list for months.

“Twelve-hour trolley waits are on the level they have been this time final yr. Staff illness absence charge is extraordinarily excessive forward of winter. And then there is the problem of ongoing strikes. The small quantity of additional money from the Treasury this week isn’t going to resolve the monetary issues.” She mentioned that the price range for buildings and gear was “being raided” to cope.

Wes Streeting, the shadow well being secretary, mentioned the federal government had successfully deserted its ambitions. “This is the government waving the white flag on Sunak’s pledge to cut waiting lists,” he mentioned. “The PM would rather blame NHS staff than take responsibility and fix the problem himself. No wonder waiting lists have trebled since 2010. The longer we give the Conservatives, the longer patients wait.”

Tim Gardner, assistant director of coverage on the Health Foundation, mentioned that if the federal government was saving further NHS funding for the forthcoming autumn assertion, it could be “far too late to shift the dial on what’s likely to be a challenging winter for emergency departments”.

“There does seem to have been a distinct shift in priorities,” he mentioned. “Financial control seems to be coming through more strongly, along with an increased focus on urgent and emergency care and patient safety, possibly in anticipation of what could be a difficult winter. As a consequence, progress on elective waiting lists appears to be a lower priority than it was.”

With the service struggling, NHS bosses are determined for additional strike motion to be prevented. Junior docs and consultants proceed to demand the reopening of the pay deal supplied by the federal government. Radiographers additionally walked out final month.

The CEO of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley, urged ministers to resolve the disputes as soon as and for all. “We haven’t even hit the worst of winter yet the pressure is being felt right across hospitals and mental health and community services, as demand for care continues to outstrip capacity,” he mentioned. “This hiatus in strike action while talks continue between the government and doctors’ unions couldn’t have come soon enough. The last thing the NHS needs as we head into another challenging winter is more industrial action.”

Dr Adrian Boyle, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, mentioned he anticipated that the months forward can be “as difficult as last winter”. “There’s nearly 150,000 people in one month who spent more than 12 hours in emergency departments,” he mentioned. “That’s a bad indicator of us going into a difficult winter, so we’re worried.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson mentioned: “Cutting waiting lists is one of our top five priorities, and despite disruption from strikes, 18-month waits are down more than 90% from their peak in September 2021. We’re backing the NHS with billions of investment to improve performance, with an additional £800m allocated this winter to support emergency care and tackle the longest waits.”

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