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Quarter of population now on the NHS waiting list, poll suggests in warning to Rishi Sunak

A quarter of all British adults are on an NHS waiting list, according to a new poll which warns Rishi Sunak he will pay a political price if he fails to tackle problems in the health service.

One in four have also had to wait for six hours or more in A&E in a sign that millions of people have been personally affected by NHS backlogs.

Reducing waiting lists which have ballooned since the Covid-19 pandemic is one of the Prime Minister’s stated five priorities ahead of the next general election.

A survey by political activist group 38 Degrees and carried out by independent pollster Survation found that voters rate the NHS as their second most important issue, behind only the cost of living.

Asked whether they had personally felt the effects of longer waiting lists, 24 per cent of the 10,000 respondents said they had had to wait six months or longer for NHS treatment and 31 per cent said a loved one had done the same.

Twenty five per cent said they had had to wait six hours or more to get treatment in a hospital’s A&E department at some point in the past six months. And 42 per cent said they had struggled to get an appointment with their GP.

Mr Sunak and Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary, have blamed rising waiting lists on the impact of strikes by doctors, nurses and other NHS employees over the past year. Health unions insist the strikes are inevitable as a result of below-inflation pay offers from the Government.

When the Prime Minister made his pledge, there were 7.2 million people waiting for non-urgent treatment, while the number now stands at 7.7 million. Mr Barclay has refused to guarantee that the figure would fall back below 7.2 million by the election, recently telling the Financial Times: “The Prime Minister himself has said there’s been a very significant impact on the waiting list from the strikes.”

Matthew McGregor of 38 Degrees said: “Growing NHS waiting times have been a ticking timebomb for years – our polling shows this issue is set to explode at the next election.

“More than a third of people have someone they love who is on a waiting list for NHS care. Up and down the country, in every community people who vote are waiting for operations. They are waiting at every stage of the healthcare service – from struggling to get GP appointments to queueing in A&E.

“In every seat, voters are worried, anxious, and angry – often living in pain or discomfort as a direct result of Rishi Sunak’s failure to deliver his promise to bring waiting times down. Rishi Sunak told the public to hold him to account if NHS waiting times didn’t fall – but so far, he’s delivered nothing but excuses.”

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