NHS: Rishi Sunak blames striking doctors and nurses for growing waiting lists
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In PMQs this afternoon (19 July), the Prime Minister seemed to pin the blame for increasing waiting lists on NHS workers taking industrial action.
It comes following five days of junior doctors strikes, with NHS consultants due to strike this week too - a move which could put routine care “virtually at a standstill”.
The government last week announced pay increases for millions of public-sector workers. It said most eligible dentists and doctors will receive at least a 6 per cent pay rise, while hospital consultants will receive a 6 per cent rise.
Sir Keir opened Prime Minister’s Questions by noting the NHS waiting list had 7.2 million people on it when Mr Sunak took office nine months ago before asking for the current number.
Mr Sunak replied: “The reason that the NHS waiting lists are higher today than they were then – after actually being stable for the first months as we put in place new initiatives – is very simple, and that’s because the NHS has been disrupted by industrial action.
“We’ve put very clear plans in place to bring down waiting lists in urgent and emergency care, and primary care and ambulances, and outpatients and electives.
“Those plans were working, and will continue to work, but we do need to end the industrial action, so I’d ask [him] if he does care about bringing the waiting lists down, does he agree with me that consultants and junior doctors should accept the pay deal that the government offered?”
At one stage Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle reminded Mr Sunak it was questions to the Prime Minister rather than the opposition leader after he again asked Sir Keir to agree that doctors should accept the pay offer.
Sir Keir joked that Mr Sunak had “slightly forgotten how” PMQs works given he had missed the last two sessions.
Sir Keir went on to claim Mr Sunak had “nicked” Labour’s NHS staffing plan, adding: “It’s the same old story, they mess up the NHS and look at Labour to fix it. Come the election, the country will be doing the same.”
Mr Sunak went on to insist the government’s plan is “fully-funded” and this will be demonstrated in the autumn statement.
He also said: “We have had the recommendations of independent pay review bodies, including for the NHS.
“Now, I believe the right thing to do was to accept those independent recommendations, but that involves taking difficult and responsible decisions to deliver those pay rises without fuelling borrowing, inflation, taxes and debt.
“On this crucial issue, while his MPs are back on the picket lines, yet again on this issue he simply refuses to take a position."