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‘We’re cutting NHS waiting times’, claims health minister despite record lists

Some 80% of all clinical claims were settled without entering court proceedings, NHS Resolution said (Jeff Moore/PA) (PA Wire)
Some 80% of all clinical claims were settled without entering court proceedings, NHS Resolution said (Jeff Moore/PA) (PA Wire)

A minister has claimed the Government is making “good progress” on NHS waiting lists, despite a record numbers of people waiting to start routine hospital treatment in England.

Some 7.6 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of June, up from 7.5 million in May, according to the NHS England figures.

But health minister Maria Caulfield told GB News: "We're actually making good progress on our waiting list.

“So while the numbers overall numbers are still high, what matters to patients is how long they're waiting on those lists and we've actually eliminated the two year wait on lists."

The Government has pledged to eliminate all waits of more than a year by March 2025.

At the end of June, 383,083 people had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start routine hospital treatment. This was only slightly down from 385,022 at the end of May.

It comes at the health service faces another round of strikes by junior doctors, consultants and radiographers. Industrial action has so far impacted almost 840,000 hospital appointments.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay is hosting a meeting with NHS leaders in Downing Street later on Wednesday to discuss winter preparedness.

Top doctors have warned hospitals are “not sufficiently resilient” ahead of a “difficult” winter.

Last winter was described as one of the worst on record for the service, and Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM), said he feared it could face a similar situation this year.

Mr Barclay will discuss a number of proposals set to keep hospitals running smoothly ahead of an influx of cases of Covid, flu and other respiratory illnesses usually seen in colder months.

Dr Boyle, who is attending the meeting, said: “We remain concerned about how we're going to be able to look after our patients this winter.

“We still have far too many patients spending too long, waiting to be admitted into hospital.

“This will inevitably cause problems with ambulance handovers and also the problems with people being looked after in corridors last winter.

“(Last winter) was extremely difficult and in terms of objective measures, it was the worst we ever saw.”

Asked if the NHS could see a repeat this winter, he added: "It is certainly a possibility. We still think our system is fragile and not sufficiently resilient to avoid a similar situation next winter.”

Dr Boyle said he would call for urgent action to tackle the number of people waiting for more than 12 hours in A&E.