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The Health Secretary said the number of patients who require elective procedures will climb higher still in the coming months. He said the severe backlog ‑ sparked by the Covid pandemic ‑ is causing “huge pressure” on the system.
Mr Javid, who admitted the Government is not on track to meet its target of recruiting 6,000 new GPs by 2025, added: “The number of people waiting for elective procedures is around 5.9 million. This number is going to go up before it comes down.
“Why? Because some seven to eight million people stayed away during the Covid crisis because they were asked to. They did what was asked of them.
“But I want them to come forward, to come back to the NHS. I want them to know it is open to them and, with normal demand, of course that is huge pressure.”
Latest official figures released by NHS England show 5.83 million people were waiting to start treatment after being referred as of September.
But October’s figures, which have not yet been published, are expected to be higher.
The number in March 2020 was 4.24 million and the figure has increased every month since July 2020.
Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers said the pressure is “unprecedented” and that there was a “high degree of concern”.
He added: “What we’re experiencing is very, very high levels of volume ‑ be it in community services, mental health services, hospitals ‑ the NHS is under an unprecedented degree of pressure for this time of year, before the traditional winter peak.”
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