Recovering the NHS backlog in some places could take up to five years: bold transformative approach needed
18 April 2021
NHS Providers says trusts are getting a clearer picture of the scale of the backlog confronting the health service, and the situation is very concerning.
The organisation which represents every NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance service in England says while the overall impact of COVID-19 on NHS waiting times is still emerging, early planning in the worst affected areas shows that, on current trajectories, tackling the problem could take three to five years. Trust leaders recognise this is not acceptable and that a plan to get through the backlog more quickly is needed.
The concerns – featured in today's Sunday Times (page 13), and running as a lead story on Sky News and Times Radio – are set out in detail by NHS Providers' chief executive, Chris Hopson, here.
He emphasises this is not just about elective and cancer backlogs in acute hospitals, but also affects patients and service users waiting for mental health and community services.
Trusts believe they can clear the backlog within a reasonable period of time, but it will require a "bold transformative approach" with additional funding from government.
Five required elements are:
- increase physical and workforce capacity
- specific steps to tackle pinch points, such as investment in a new network of community diagnostic hubs
- NHS efficiency and productivity gains, often through improved collaboration
- reconfigure hospitals to deal with future waves of COVID-19 and winter pressures to avoid disruptive
- rapidly adopt new ways of treating patients, specialty by specialty such as using new technology solutions in ophthalmology where the waiting lists are some of the longest
Chris Hopson said:
"Early work by trust leaders shows there is a huge backlog to clear. Trust leaders are going as fast as they can in tackling the most urgent cancer, surgery and other cases.
"They are only too aware of the impact of delays.
"The scale of the backlog ahead is very worrying.
"Some chief executives are adamant we must avoid returning to the situation in the early 2000s, when the NHS had far too many people waiting for years, not months, on waiting lists.
"What's needed now is a team approach – the NHS transforming how it provides care and the government providing the extra funding required to enable that transformation.
"We need to work together over the next few months to create a joint plan to deliver for patients and service users to be announced in the multi year spending review we are expecting at the end of the year."