On 14 January, NHS England admitted that the total of patients referred to hospitals but waiting for treatment could be as high as 3.5 million.
On the latest complete figures, for November 2015, 834 people were waiting more than a year. That’s more than double the number in November 2014 and nearly four times as many as 2013. 157,000 people were kept waiting beyond the benchmark period in A&E in November, up from 117,644 in the same month in 2014.
The Tories say they are not cutting the NHS budget. In fact, since the population is ageing and more initially-expensive new treatments are coming through, a cash standstill is a real cut. The cash cuts for local government also hit the NHS, because they translate to cuts in social care which leave hospitals caring for elderly patients who would be better off at home with social care. And the Tories’ figures assume £20 billion “efficiency savings”.
Most NHS trusts are in financial crisis. Figures compiled by the Kings Fund late in 2015 showed 64 per cent of them forecasting a deficit for the end of the financial year 2015/16. The Health Campaigns Together conference on 30 January is doubly important now. We want to see an ongoing campaign drive coming out of it, focused on pressing and helping the new Corbyn Labour Party to mobilise massively for the NHS.