Ministers have admitted a key NHS pledge to ensure that everyone who has been waiting at least two years for hospital care would be treated by last month has not been met.
The then health secretary Sajid Javid made the promise in February when launching the NHS’s “elective recovery plan”. It was intended to tackle what is now a record 6.6 million-patient backlog in England for those awaiting a procedure such as a joint replacement or cataract removal and included a series of treatment milestones the health service had to hit.
“No one will wait longer than two years by July,” Javid said. However, the Department of Health and Social Care has now admitted that it will miss that target and that “a small number of patients” will have remained untreated by that deadline.
The health minister Maria Caulfield told Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, in a written parliamentary answer on 18 July that while “no formal estimate has been made … engagement with the National Health Service suggests a small number of patients with complex cases will have waited longer than two years for NHS treatment by the end of July 2022”.
Streeting said the admission was a further example of the government not backing up rhetoric on the NHS with concrete action. “It is unacceptable for anyone to be left waiting more than one year for healthcare, let alone two,” he said. “Once again the Conservatives have overpromised, [and] undelivered, and patients are paying the price.”
Source: The Guardian, 3 August 2022