New Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned that NHS waiting lists could rocket to 13 million in the coming months as concerns rise over the backlog faced by the health service.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph in his first interview since taking up the job two weeks ago, Mr Javid said the growing number of people waiting for non-Covid treatment on the NHS had been what shocked him the most since returning to the Cabinet following Matt Hancock’s resignation.
We want to hear from you: let us know what you think about this story and be part of the debate in our comments section below
At a glance: 5 key points
- NHS trusts are facing the combined hit of Covid cases rising again
- They have seen a backlog for treatments including cancer checks and heart disease
- There is also staff shortages due to workers having to self-isolate if they are ‘pinged’ by the Covid app
- Sajiv Javid said “there’s every reason” to take a “proportionate and balanced approach” to the isolation policy for NHS staff
- No 10 suggested healthcare staff could be exempt from having to stay at home if they had two jabs
What’s been said?
He told the newspaper: “What shocked me the most is when I was told that the waiting list is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
“It’s gone up from 3.5 million to 5.3 million as of today, and I said to the officials so what do you mean ‘a lot worse’, thinking maybe it goes from 5.3 million to six million, seven million. They said no, it’s going to go up by millions… it could go as high as 13 million.
“Hearing that figure of 13 million, it has absolutely focused my mind, and it’s going to be one of my top priorities to deal with because we can’t have that.”
NHS Providers, the membership organisation for NHS trusts in England, warned that up to a fifth of staff could be absent from one NHS trust in just three weeks from now, potentially leading to the cancellation of as many as 900 operations.
The rate of new cases of Covid in most areas of England is now back at levels last seen during the winter.
Patient numbers have risen to levels last seen around three months ago.
In his Sunday Telegraph interview, Mr Javid said anyone who would not wear a mask in an enclosed space was “just being irresponsible” despite it becoming guidance rather than the law in Step 4 of restrictions lifting.