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One in five people on NHS waiting lists in Britain’s worst-hit areas

Queue of people waiting for treatment
Queue of people waiting for treatment

A fifth of people are on NHS waiting lists in Britain’s worst hit areas, new analysis has shown.

The record 7.8 million waiting list for England means on average one in eight people – 12.4 per cent – is waiting for an appointment or procedure. But this rises to one in five in areas with the most demand.

Southend, Mid Essex, and West Sussex, with between 17.7 per cent and 21 per cent, have the greatest proportion of people waiting, according to analysis by the Liberal Democrats.

Castle Point and Rochford, Stockport and Wigan Borough make up the local areas where more than one in six people are waiting for an NHS appointment, the House of Commons Library analysis said.

Daisy Cooper MP, the Lib Dem health spokesman, said that communities are “grinding to a halt” due to soaring waiting lists.

The NHS recently revealed that 15 per cent of patients were waiting for more than one appointment or procedure, meaning there are around 6.5 million individuals waiting for 7.8 million appointments.

Separate analysis by the Reform think tank suggested there was a “hidden waiting list” of 11.3 million people waiting for follow-up appointments. However, this could include check-ups and discharge appointments booked in several months’ time.

The waiting list has risen by 600,000, from 7.2 million, since Rishi Sunak pledged to cut waiting lists.

Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, told BBC the Government was still “looking to meet those targets” but needed doctors to agree to end strikes.

The area coping the best, according to the analysis, is Berkshire West, with around one in 16 people waiting for NHS care.

Oxfordshire, Portsmouth, and Bradford District and Craven are the next best areas with fewer than one in 11 people on NHS lists.

‘String of broken promises’

Ms Cooper said: “These figures are frankly terrifying. People are being left waiting in pain for treatment and unable to work, but it seems Conservative ministers just don’t care.

“The Prime Minister promised to bring down the NHS backlog but it’s only got bigger.

“For the Conservatives, it’s just the latest in a long string of broken promises on the NHS, alongside broken promises to recruit 6,000 more GPs and build 40 new hospitals.”

A Department for Health spokesman said: “Cutting waiting lists is one of the government’s top five priorities and, despite disruption from strikes, 18-month waits have been reduced by more than 90 per cent from their peak in Sept 2021. We are also going further to draw on spare capacity in the independent sector so NHS patients can be treated more quickly.

“To improve access to lifesaving tests and checks and to cut down on unnecessary hospital trips, we have opened 136 community diagnostic centres and are on track to open 160 by March 2024 – a full year ahead of schedule.”