HEALTHCARE woes in the town - which campaigners say must be put right to combat rocketing amounts of residents awaiting surgery due to an enormous backlog - will result in an ‘emergency’ public meeting being held just days after the NHS marks its 75th anniversary.

The Chronicle understands doctors and nurses - both current and former - will attend the ‘essential’ event at the Civic on July 8, which has been organised by Barnsley Save Our NHS members.

Disgruntled patients are also set to flock to the Civic to air their concerns after it was revealed a record-breaking 21,000 Barnsley residents are awaiting operations, which an average diagnosis-to-surgery time of ten weeks.

The group claim the NHS is in a never-before-seen crisis and called for similar meetings to take place nationally in order to force the government’s hand into pledging more cash to ease the backlog.

Tony Nuttall, from the group, said: “Before the last war, healthcare in this country was hit and miss - afterwards people were determined to put this right and voted for a proper public service.

“Funded from taxation, its intention was to meet people’s healthcare needs so that they would not have the fear that if they became ill, help would not be there.

“The service was once ranked as the best in the world, however things are rapidly going backwards.

“New NHS data indicates the picture in Barnsley but also that seven million in the country are on waiting lists for specialist clinical care or surgery.

“GP appointments are difficult to get and there’s unrelenting pressure and poor working conditions - staff are trained for years by the NHS but are leaving at an unprecedented rate.

“We have organised the meeting - which starts at 1pm - so that people can talk about their experiences, the problems that exist and ways of fighting back.

“The NHS was short of 100,000 doctors and nurses, putting staff and patients’ safety at risk.

“As well as this staff have not had a decent pay rise for over a decade.

“The Tory government has pushed through the Health and Care Bill that tackled none of these problems.

“Instead there’s been a transfer of control of the NHS to regional boards that would include private sector representatives being able to push forward the creeping privatisation.”

When it was founded in 1948, the NHS was the first universal health system to be available to all, free at the point of delivery and will mark its 75th anniversary on Wednesday.

The NHS has delivered huge medical advances, including the world’s first liver, heart and lung transplant in 1987, pioneering new treatments such as bionic eyes and, in more recent times, the world’s first rapid whole genome sequencing service for seriously ill babies and children.

However, campaigners believe the knock-on impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe harm to patients’ confidence and have called for urgent action.

At Barnsley Hospital, 3,035 patients were waiting for one of ten standard tests, such as an MRI scan, non-obstetric ultrasound or gastroscopy at the end of April.

Of them, 327 - 11 per cent - had been waiting for at least six weeks.

Pete Deakin, chair of Barnsley Save Our NHS, added: “We urge anyone who is concerned about the NHS to come along and get involved.

“Nye Bevan was right when he said ‘the NHS will last as long as there or folk left with the faith to fight for it’.”

Stephanie Peacock, MP for Barnsley East, urged the government to provide a clearer plan to deal with the ‘chronic’ shortage of GPs, doctors and nurses to set clear targets on how to reduce waiting lists and make more appointments available.

She added: “People in Barnsley are being forced to wait months and even years for treatment, often in pain and discomfort.

“It is unacceptable and will have appalling consequences for patients.

“I wrote to the Health Secretary to express my concerns about this and I have also raised the matter in Parliament.

“It’s clear the NHS is under a huge amount of pressure.

“Without sufficient funding and staff, doctors and nurses in Barnsley work hard to meet increasing demand but are not given the support they need to meet it.

“A report from the National Audit Office has warned that the number of people waiting for care could double by March 2025.

“It’s people from places like ours who can’t afford for private healthcare whose health will suffer if the backlog isn’t dealt with and our NHS isn’t given the support it needs.”