Politics

NHS backlog to ‘get worse before it gets better’, admits health secretary 


Health secretary Sajid Javid has warned that the NHS backlog could worsen before improvements are made, ahead of the delayed publication of the government’s recovery plan.

This morning Javid told Sky News that the threat of the omicron variant had delayed the plans, amid claims tension between Boris Johnson and the Treasury were to blame.

Details of the NHS England plans were expected to be published today, but have been put on ice in the wake of an alleged intervention by Whitehall.  An online service has been launched however, which people needing “non-urgent” surgery can examine information regarding waiting times.

“Because of Covid the NHS rightly focused on Covid patients and it has meant sadly the waiting list has risen significantly,” he explained.

“And I have to tell you I think the waiting list will continue to rise for a while before it starts to fall.

“We can’t be sure and the reason is because we estimate about eight to nine million people stayed away from the NHS because they were asked to, they did the right thing. But we want them to come back, I want them all to come back and know the NHS is there.”

Javid stressed that “very ambitious” recovery strategy would soon be published.

Speaking earlier this morning, he refused to elaborate on how backlog figures may worsen in coming months.

 “I can’t tell you and nor can the NHS tell you – or anyone – where the waiting list might get to,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“What we are certain is it will rise over the six million it is today over the coming months, and it will do that because the people who stayed away will start coming forward.

“We will have some kinds of targets in the new elective recovery plan, I couldn’t tell you exactly what they are today.”

Javid dismissed claims that NHS-government conflict over the plans was behind the delay.

“There’s been no argument, there’s been a very active discussion within both the NHS and my department to collectively agree on an elective recovery plan.”

This comes after the head of NHS Confederation, outlined alleged tensions between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak “unhelpful” as the government movies to tackle the 6 million backlog of routine NHS appointments.

Matthew Taylor, who formerly served as a political strategist for Tony Blair, told the Today programme “I think when any government is in political difficulties, it means that these kind of policy choices get politicised in ways that are unhelpful.”

He stressed that the NHS was already in a “frustrating” position, and that the delay of the plans was unhelpful.



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