June 2019 saw a record number of patients in England - 4.4 million - waiting for routine operations on the NHS, according to a recent article by BBC News.
Waiting lists have gradually increased over the past twelve months and June 2019's figures are the highest numbers recorded since modern records began in 2007.
Additionally, 600,000 people had to wait longer than 18 weeks before starting treatment, and in July the number of people attending Accident & Emergency units throughout the country hit a record 2.27 million. Previously, the highest number of A&E attendances recorded was 2.17 million, in July 2018.
A number of hospitals claim that the disagreement over doctors' pension tax relief has contributed to the record numbers, as some consultants have showed reluctance to take on extra shifts to help clear the backlog of operations.
The country’s top surgeons are now calling for a five-year strategy to be implemented in order to clear the backlog of patients waiting for consultant-led treatment, including providing additional hospital beds.
President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Prof Derek Alderson, said the number of patients "languishing on waiting lists remains at an utterly unacceptable level".
It is clearly unacceptable for patients to be waiting for more than a third of a year before starting treatment. Even patients who need routine surgery are likely to suffer whilst they wait, and delays carry the risk that a patient’s condition might deteriorate. It is clear that the blame for this lies not with doctors but with ill-thought out legislation which has managed to disincentivise Consultants from working overtime. The government has said that it is going to address this problem; it should do so quickly.
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