Over the last two years the NHS has been tested as never before, but during this period of intense pressure, we have also seen just how resilient and resourceful trusts can be.
Delivering under significant pressure
Trust leaders and their staff are doing everything they can to deliver high quality care for patients during the busiest winter on record and in the face of the Omicron surge. They have strived to deliver emergency services, which have come under relentless pressure and they are working incredibly hard to tackle the backlog of care, which worsened during the pandemic and now stands at over 6 million people waiting for routine treatments and procedures.
Tackling the care backlog across all sectors
The care backlog weighs heavy on the shoulders of those running the NHS because they know the impact of delayed treatments for patients, both physically and emotionally, can be devastating. While the focus has predominantly been on backlogs in the acute sector, the demand for mental health treatment, particularly in children and young people's services, along with community services has also sky-rocketed. Trust leaders have seen first-hand how delayed treatment can worsen health inequalities, leading to poorer outcomes for vulnerable groups. Therefore, trust leaders and their teams are doing everything they can to tackle long waiting lists. This will be a key priority for them in the months and years ahead.
We have already seen great efforts in recent months to restore activity such as diagnostic tests, referrals and treatment, up to and sometimes beyond pre-pandemic levels. Efforts in the coming months will be directed by the recently published elective recovery plan, which sets out stretching targets to deliver more tests, checks and treatments.
What is required to meet ambitions
Trust leaders will be working hard to meet the challenges presented by long waits, but they need the staff and resources to make this happen. Workforce shortages and the resulting unsustainable workloads on existing staff are the biggest challenges facing trusts in their efforts to clear the backlog of care. We need to have the staff in place to achieve all of these ambitions both now and in the future.
This blog was first published in the Guardian.