Every year since I can remember there have been apocalyptic headlines declaring that the NHS is at breaking point or close to it. The current dispute with hospital doctors has added pressure to the struggling hospital system, which is trying to recover from the large backlog to referrals and subsequent treatments caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In England, there are 7.7 million patients waiting to start treatment as of the end of October 2023 (NHS England, 2023), with some patients on multiple pathways. This indicates there are about 6.5 million patients on waiting lists, with a median waiting time of 14.6 weeks, although this may disguise the grim statistic that only 58.2% of patients are treated within 18 weeks (NHS England, 2023). However, waiting for hospital treatment is not a new phenomenon and reducing waiting times has been a challenge for successive governments (Marszalek et al, 2023). Waiting times have been a feature of innumerable general election campaigns, with Tony Blair caught up in a debate about access to tonsillectomies (which in those days were a common surgeries for children despite being a relatively limited treatment in other Western countries, as it is in the UK today [ENTUK, 2021]).
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