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Failure in Reduction of NHS waiting times: Who is to be blamed?

NHS waiting times

In one of the promises made to the British Public, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confidently promised to deliver a reduction in the NHS waiting times. All parties involved, especially the general public and healthcare professionals would love and support the NHS becoming more efficient. However, what Mr Sunak failed to take into consideration is the welfare of the very NHS employees who would have helped him achieve this target. The Prime Minister set out these goals without looking at the bigger picture that most NHS employees like Doctors, Nurses, and other health professionals were unhappy and exhausted after helping this country drive out the threat of COVID-19. Most were barely making ends meet with the current wage structures. Rather than making such promises to gain public favour, the Prime Minister should’ve analysed the state of the NHS including its’ employees before making such promises.

When asked whether Rishi Sunak and his government have failed to deliver their promise of reducing NHS waiting lists by Piers Morgan on Talk TV, the prime minister responded saying “Yes, we have”. However, He continued with his justification of why they have failed and blamed this on the continuing industrial action by junior doctors and consultants. He stated that Nurses and other healthcare workers have agreed to a pay deal and directed the blame on industrial actions and disagreement with doctors as the major reason for the shortcomings of the government. Although the industrial actions have undoubtedly affected the NHS wait times, the unwillingness of the government to offer a credible salary raise shows that the government needs to take responsibility for the failure of the NHS, not the doctors.

The prime minister has always tried deflecting tactics and blaming others while taking up the mantle of leading the country. He consistently boasts his government’s role in hiring more NHS employees, however, he fails to mention that several employees had already left the NHS to work abroad for better pay and work-life balance. Therefore, Mr Sunak and his government have only replenished the workforce rather than adding more employees. Blaming doctors is a cowardly way of not taking responsibility for one of the major aspects of this country, which is the NHS.

As of November 2023, there are about 7.6 million non-emergency treatments pending in England. The reason for industrial actions taken by doctors is the only way the government is willing to negotiate. The pay has been declining for years since 2008 and more and more doctors are willing to leave to find greener pastures. Rather than try to retain these highly qualified and trained professionals and work with doctors to improve the NHS, the government is deploying hardball tactics. The same government is swift to take any credit for the success of the NHS and does not take the blame when it comes to the failures of the NHS.

Importantly, the junior doctors and consultants are highly motivated to end the strikes as soon as possible. Both groups of doctors want to reach an amicable and fair agreement with the government. But the government’s offers so far have been insultingly low, which reveals how little the government cares about the NHS employees. The current government's unwillingness to negotiate better deals will only prolong the NHS wait times and the general public will be affected. The power to stop the NHS delays is in the hands of the Prime Minister and not the doctors as Rishi Sunak states. Therefore, to reach an agreement would be in the best interest of the country.

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