The Patients Association
PO Box 935

020 8423 9111

10th November 2023

The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Prime Minister 
10 Downing Street

Dear Prime Minister, 

I am writing to you as Chief Executive of the Patients Association regarding the decision to scale back ambitions for elective care following the NHS’ request for additional funding to cover the costs it has faced due to strike action in recent months. We welcomed your decision to make reducing waiting lists one of your five priorities. 

We are profoundly concerned about the impact of this decision on those waiting for treatment, or those who are struggling to get any clinical help at all. The consequences of this decision will affect patients who are already unwell, vulnerable and disadvantaged. 

The financial pressures resulting from strikes come at a time of unheralded pressure on the NHS. The Government’s decision to provide some funding to support systems is welcome but it does not provide for the much-needed elective care recovery programme to which you had previously committed. There are 6.5 million people on waiting lists for elective care, with the true figure likely to be even higher when those awaiting a referral and diagnostics are factored in. 

The decision will affect the ability of tens of thousands of patients to get the treatment they need. It is counterproductive to their long-term interests and those of the NHS itself.

Patients will deteriorate while they await treatment, and their problems will only become more complex. They will require more time and NHS resources to treat them when they are seen, at great cost to the patient and NHS. In the most severe cases patients will turn to accident and emergency as a last resort. In each case the truth of the matter is clear: patients will deteriorate while they wait ultimately increasing the pressure the NHS.

I urge you to consider the human impact behind these numbers. Patients are at the heart of the Patients Association’s work, and we know only too well the devasting impact that struggles to access care can have. Many of the stories we hear are heartbreaking. Untreated health issues can have a devasting impact leading to financial problems, difficulties staying in work, or being an active participant in family life. Analysis of progress in tackling the elective backlog has shown some communities are being left behind and this gap will only grow.

The Patients Association was proud to be a member of the Elective Care Recovery Taskforce. We welcomed its commitments to build upon patient choice and to give patients the support they need to make the right decision for themselves. We have always been advocates for patient choice, but we must also be realistic: patients stuck endlessly on waiting lists who are unable to access any treatment have no choice at all.

In light of your personal commitment to reduce waiting lists, I implore you, on behalf of all patients, to intervene and ensure your Government gives the NHS the resources it needs to deal with the winter pressures that are upon us, and to ensure that patients get the treatment they need according to rights laid out in the NHS constitution.

At a minimum, it is vital that the Government clearly sets out what impact reducing the target will have on the elective recovery programme and what steps it will take to protect patients who lose out, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

We look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Rachel Power

Chief Executive

10th November 2023