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Britain’s health minister on Thursday pledged to cut waiting times for doctors’ appointments and launched a fund to support social care, in a plan that drew criticism for not doing enough to solve a staffing crisis in the National Health Service (NHS).

The proportion of Britain’s workforce too sick to work has jumped to its highest since 2005, which economists say is likely due to a mix of long COVID and greater difficulty in accessing health care since the start of the pandemic.

Britain’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) is facing its worst ever staffing crisis with thousands of vacancies and the government has no credible strategy to address the problem, a committee of lawmakers said in a report published on Monday.