Boris Johnson vows to ‘get those waiting lists down’ after worst NHS figures | Politics News
Boris Johnson has made a commitment to “get those waiting lists down” after one measure of NHS performance recorded its worst figure on record.
Official data showed only 81.4% of emergency patients in England were seen within four hours in November.
It is the worst performance ever against the target that 95% of A&E patients should be treated, discharged or admitted to hospital within that timescale.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised the issue at Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.
He asked: “The number of patients waiting more than four hours in A&E is now at its highest on record, for the second month in a row.
“We’ve had months of promises. People need action.”
Mr Corbyn also noted that last year saw one in four patients waiting more than two months for the start of their cancer treatment.
He added: “How many more patients will face what are life-threatening delays because our NHS is under-staffed and under-funded?”
In response, the prime minister admitted such delays are “unacceptable” but highlighted the Conservatives’ election promises to deliver 50,000 more nurses, 6,000 more GPs and invest “record sums” in the NHS.
“We will get those waiting lists down,” Mr Johnson added, despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock having earlier hinted the four-hour A&E waiting time target could be scrapped.
Mr Corbyn called on the government to apologise to 92-year-old RAF veteran Stan Solomons, who was last week reported to have waited 12 hours on a hospital trolley before a bed was found for him.
The prime minister said MPs have “every sympathy for everybody who have a bad and unacceptable experience in the NHS” but added that “most people in this country… have a fantastic experience of our health care”.
The government has promised to write its NHS funding commitments into law, with the NHS Long Term Plan Funding Bill introduced to the Commons for the first time on Wednesday.
But Mr Corbyn branded this a “gimmick” and told the prime minister: “He should end the empty rhetoric and back our proposals to give the NHS the funding it needs rather than putting into law an insufficiency of funding.”
NHS England is already piloting new targets so patients with the most serious conditions receive treatment within an hour, while others with more minor complaints wait longer.
Mr Hancock suggested the trials could become permanent across England, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “We will be judged by the right targets. Targets have to be clinically appropriate.”
He added: “The four-hour target in A&E – which is often taken as the top way of measuring what’s going on in hospitals – the problem with that target is that, increasingly, people can be treated on the day and able to go home.
“That is much better for the patient and also better for the NHS, and yet the way that’s counted in the target doesn’t work.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: “Changing the A&E target won’t magic away the problems in our overcrowded hospitals, with patients left on trolleys in corridors for hours and hours.”