It is undesirable that the secretary of state of a major delivery department should be changed at a moment of maximum stress, but at least Sajid Javid, the new health secretary, showed a clear grasp of his priorities on taking office. He said that what had struck him most in his first days in the now CCTV-free office on Victoria Street was the urgency of tackling the NHS backlog – not just the 5 million on the official waiting list, but the estimated 7 million more potential patients who are expected to come forward when the pandemic abates.
Shaun Lintern, our award-winning health correspondent, has been reporting from the front line with a consistent message in recent months: that the NHS is at breaking point. He reports that NHS emergency services are bracing for a flood of call-outs this weekend and that thousands of 999 calls were put on hold for longer than two minutes last month because there were too few staff to answer them.
In recent days he has highlighted the 15-hour waits in accident and emergency departments, and quoted the chief executive of the NHS in the west Midlands as saying: “There is no question that patients are coming to harm.”
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