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Press release

The King's Fund responds to the Labour Party's plan to clear the NHS backlog

Responding to the Labour Party’s announcement on first steps to clear the NHS backlog in five years, Sarah Woolnough, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said:

‘Despite sustained efforts, the NHS waiting list for elective care remains stubbornly high, at 7.5 million. Long waits for care have been brought down before, but it takes time. It wasn’t until 2008 that the last Labour government got waiting times within the target. Clearing the backlog within five years will take real effort and focus, and may mean other ambitions in health and care will be slower to realise.

‘Offering weekend and evening appointments for planned treatment and outpatient clinics is a good idea and has already been shown to bring down long waits in parts of the NHS. Scaling this up will rely on having enough NHS staff to take on the extra shifts – not a given when so many report high levels of stress and burn out.

'Achieving this ambition to eradicate the backlog within five years will almost certainly require a swift resolution to ongoing industrial action. Addressing long waits for care will also need greater government focus on preventing ill health in the first place and, crucially, shifting more care outside of hospitals into the community, so that people’s conditions can be managed without the need for acute care.

‘Labour’s commitment to increasing the number of CT and MRI scanners is welcome, but it is less clear what action the party would take to achieve its goal of increased efficiency in the health service.’

Notes to editors

  1. The King’s Fund published three general election priorities any future government should take to ‘fix’ health and care.

  2. The King’s Fund researched the strategies used to reduce waiting times in England and elsewhere in the past 20 years.

  3. Taking an inclusive approach to tackling waiting lists should be a core part of effective waiting list management. The King's Fund researched what progress is being made towards inclusive recovery.

  4. The King's Fund compared the health care systems of different countries, finding that the UK lags behind other countries in its capital investment, and has substantially fewer key physical resources than many of its peers, including scanners and hospital beds.

For further information, or to request an interview, please contact the Press and Public Affairs team on 020 7307 2585. 

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all. 

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