One in three Brits miss work while waiting for healthcare

18 Nov 2023

EMBARGO: 00.01 Monday 20th November

  • Shock poll reveals staggering number of working UK adults say they have missed work in the past year due to being stuck on waiting lists or attempting to see a GP or dentist

  • Half of young adults (18-34) missed work last year due to NHS waiting lists

  • Lib Dem MP warns crisis in the NHS is damaging economic growth as one in three adults missed work waiting for an appointment in the last year

  • Party calls on the Government to use the £13bn windfall to deliver 8,000 GPs, cut waiting times and improve mental health support, among other measures

A new poll, commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, has found that one in three working adults say they have missed work in the last year while waiting for a medical appointment or treatment on the NHS.

That includes over half (54%) of young adults (18-34) who say they’ve been forced to miss work in the past year due to soaring health waiting lists, including seeing GPs. 

The devastating poll reveals reasons for missing work in the past year include:

  • One in five (19%) working adults say that they have been unable to go to work while waiting to see their GP 

  • One in seven (15%) who say they’ve had to take a significant length of time off work as they wait for NHS treatment or surgery for a health condition

  • Just over one in ten (12%) stuck waiting for an emergency dental appointment then missing work

The Liberal Democrats are warning that these treatment backlogs and an alarming shortage of GP appointments are damaging economic growth and will continue to impact both the economy and people’s quality of life without a significant rescue package.

According to the Resolution Foundation, the Chancellor is expected to have “fiscal headroom” for additional spending worth an extra £13bn going into the Autumn Statement.

The party is calling on the Government to use the Autumn Statement to invest that extra £13bn into the NHS to deliver on a robust series of measures to support the health service through this winter and longer term. This includes recruiting 8,000 more GPs, reversing Conservative cuts to vital public health services in local communities and funding 200 new radiotherapy machines.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said: 

“It’s outrageous that so many patients have been left to suffer as a result of this Conservative Government’s neglect. Thousands of people are waiting an appalling length of time to start treatment, with countless more desperately trying to get hold of their GP to no avail. 

“Sunak and Hunt’s failure to get a grip on the crisis in our NHS is having a detrimental effect on the entire country. Millions battling health conditions have been left in limbo and our economy is suffering as a result.

“This Conservative Government cannot continue to turn a blind eye. It’s clear that growth is not possible unless we first tackle the ever-growing NHS treatment and GP backlogs that are holding millions of people back and having a devastating impact on quality of life. 

“That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for an emergency £13 billion investment in the NHS that would deliver new GPs, cut waiting times and improve mental health support.”


Notes to Editor:


Polling methodology: Savanta interviewed 2,235 UK adults aged 18+ online between 10th and 13th November 2023. Data were weighted to be representative of the UK by age, sex, region and social grade. Full details here.

Which of the following have you experienced in the last year? Base: All respondents who are currently working (n=1,305)

Unable to go to work as waiting for GP appointment 


Unable to go to work as waiting for emergency dental appointment 


Took a lengthy period off work whilst waiting for NHS treatment or surgery 


Don’t know


None of these


NET: Any


Fiscal headroom:

According to the Resolution Foundation, going into the Autumn Statement the Chancellor will have headroom for additional spending worth £13bn. [Resolution Foundation: Preparing the Pitch].

Liberal Democrats are calling for an emergency £13bn funding boost for the NHS and social care including:

Delivering 8,000 more GPs to create 65 million more appointments every year.

Urgently reforming NHS dentistry to end dental deserts and DIY dentistry.

Giving the NHS 200 new radiotherapy machines and training 3,400 extra cancer nurses.

Preparing for urgent pressures this winter to avoid a new crisis, with an immediate boost to NHS staffed hospital bed capacity and ambulance services.

Tackling the black hole in adult and children’s social care services, and giving care workers a proper pay rise.

Reversing Conservative cuts to vital public health services in local communities, such as children's health services and drug and alcohol services.

Proper mental health support, by rolling out community walk-in centres for children and young people and providing every school with a qualified mental health practitioner.




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