NHS waiting lists are expected to grow even further, a Health Secretary warned today.
Speaking on the 75th anniversary of the service, Maria Caulfield said the huge queue of 7.4 million patients in England will first rise and then fall.
Think tanks have warned the NHS is facing “major challenges” and is in a “critical state”.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer, heads of the King’s Fund, the Health Foundation and the Nuffield Trust, it said: “Pressure on services is extreme and public satisfaction is at its lowest level since records began 40 years ago years.”
Health leaders added that support for the NHS was “rock solid” but “investment and reform” was badly needed.
The letter said: “We urge you to make the next election a crucial turning point, by ending years of short-termism in NHS policymaking… and promising unattainable, unrealistically quick improvements without a long-term plan to eliminate the underlying.” underlying causes of the current situation.” Crisis is a strategy that is doomed to fail.”
Despite the dire warning, Ms Caulfield told Times Radio the service will “thrive” going forward.
“We are now seeing record investments in staff, in our infrastructure with our new surgical centers, community diagnostic centers, new hospitals, but also in the way we treat people,” she said.
However, the former nurse also said waiting lists were rising at record levels.
The figure of 7.4 million “is likely to increase further as we offer more procedures,” the minister told Sky News.
She added, “What matters to patients is how long they wait.”
“They don’t worry too much about who else is on the waiting list.
“They want to know when their procedure or surgery is happening, and we’ve significantly reduced that delay.”
“We’ve virtually eliminated a two-year wait.”
This morning the Prime Minister and Labor leader attended a service to commemorate 75 years of free health care.
Both gave readings to hundreds of politicians and health workers to “pay tribute” to the service.
This morning Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting argued the NHS is a “service not a shrine” and urged his colleagues to stop treating it like a “national religion”.
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“We have to stop thinking of it as a national religion and make sure it’s an institution and a system that will give the best results,” he said.
“It has the potential to do so, but it needs reform. And just as only Nixon could go to China, I would bet only Labor is capable of reforming the NHS.”