Approximately 7.57 million Britons Waiting for Routine Healthcare Treatment in the UK’s National Health Service
According to new numbers released on Thursday, approximately 7.57 million Britons are currently waiting for routine healthcare treatment in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS). This comes just over a month after the NHS celebrated its 75th anniversary. The latest data reveals that wait times for the nationalized healthcare system have tripled from pre-pandemic levels, with an increase of 100,000 patients between May and June of this year.
Long Wait Times and Backlogs
As of the end of June, a staggering 314 UK citizens had been waiting for more than two years to receive routine healthcare treatments, such as hip replacements. Additionally, over 7,000 patients had been waiting for over 18 months, and more than 380,000 had been waiting for more than a year. The majority of patients, over 4 million, had been waiting for up to 18 weeks, according to the NHS report.
Impact of Junior Doctor Strikes
The recent spike in wait times can be attributed, in part, to a series of strikes by junior NHS doctors in recent months. These strikes have caused periodic breaks in healthcare provision across the UK. The upcoming strike from August 11 to August 15 will be the fifth junior doctor strike, resulting in a total of 450 service hours or 19 full days with the NHS functioning on only two-thirds of its medical staff.
“This latest round of junior doctors strikes will again significantly disrupt services for patients, and the additional challenge this time is that organizations are unable to use agency workers to cover staff out on strike,” said NHS National Medical Director Stephen Powis in a press statement about the most recent strike. “It is also a period of time where NHS staff often take annual leave, so there are already gaps in the workforce.”
A press statement from the NHS indicated that nearly 780,000 hospital appointments had been postponed due to the physician strikes.
Pressure on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
Thursday’s report puts significant strain on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has made promises to reduce waiting list times. “Today’s data is a reminder of the significant pressure on staff, with this summer currently on trajectory to be the busiest in NHS history, all while industrial action continues to disrupt services,” said Julian Redhead of NHS England in response to the report.
NHS as a Universal Healthcare System
The NHS has often been cited by critics of the U.S. healthcare system as an example of a successful universal healthcare system. This summer, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), along with Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), reintroduced the Medicare for All Act to restructure the U.S. healthcare system.
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