Tackling the NHS backlog risks another Mid Staffs scandal, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned.

The Commons Health Select Committee chairman feared the mammoth challenge of clearing waiting lists in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic could trigger a separate crisis.

A public inquiry led by Sir Robert Francis QC blasted the “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” at Stafford Hospital between January 2005 and March 2009.

Delivering his report, he said: "They were failed by a system which ignored the warning signs and put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety."

Mr Hunt told the Sunday Times: “My biggest fear is that we will end up with such huge pressure to reduce waiting lists that we will lose the focus on safety and quality.

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt issued a stark warning about the pressures facing the NHS (

Image:

PA)

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“The last time we had a huge effort to bring down waiting lists under the Blair/ Brown government, we ended up with the unintended consequence of Mid Staffs and Morecambe Bay [when care failures led to the avoidable deaths of 11 babies and a mother] ... because the system was put under enormous pressure to meet targets.

“Quality and safety and sometimes compassion were thrown out of the window because of the pressure that organisations were put under.

“We have to really make sure that we don't fall into the same trap this time round.

“We've got to be really careful we don't sleepwalk into another Mid Staffs."

The NHS waiting list in England has ballooned to 5.3 million, including nearly 4,000 patients who have been waiting for two years.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid revealed that when he took the job in June, officials warned him the backlog could grow to 13 million.

Mr Hunt insisted it was not "inevitable" the waiting list would hit 13 million.

But he added: “The problem is that even if it doesn't, the situation is incredibly scary."