The NHS aims to eliminate waits of over 18 months by April 2023, and waits over 65 weeks by March 2024 as it aims to tackle the waiting lists created by the Covid pandemic

In a statement to Parliament, Health Secretary Saqid Javid said that by March 2024, 99% of patients will wait less than one year for treatment.

The Government’s plan will allow the NHS to conduct an additional 9 million extra checks, tests and procedures by 2025.

and that like during the pandemic, the government will make “greater use of the independent sector” to boost capacity and help patients access services.

Six million patients are on waiting lists for non-urgent operations and procedures in England and Javid urged them to come forward saying that saying 10 million people stayed away from the NHS during the pandemic

Other plans announced will see Health Education England (the body in charge of recruitment and training of NHS staff) will be merged with the NHS so planning is better.

There will be a new online platform called My Planned Care, due to launch later this month, to improve the information patients receive and make the process more transparent

While on cancer, Javid says he wants to tackle the disparities in cancer treatment, especially looking at data along the lines of age, deprivation, and ethnicity. There will also be a renewed push on early diagnosis, which has worsened during the pandemic

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said that the plans fell “seriously short of the scale of the challenge” adding that this is “not a Covid backlog, it’s a Tory backlog”.

He says there were record waiting lists of 4.5 million before the pandemic, along with staff shortages, not enough beds, and vacancies in social care.

“it’s not just that they didn’t fix the roof while the sun was shining, they dismantled the roof and removed the floorboards.”he said

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Today’s plans kickstart elective care recovery, but they don’t go far enough. There are hundreds of thousands of people waiting for a heart test or treatment in England, and millions more living with heart disease – but we did not hear concrete detail on how their unique needs will be met.

“As we navigate the aftermath of one of the most difficult health crises in recent history, the vast, growing, and increasingly urgent backlog of vital heart scans, treatments, and operations demands specific attention.

“There is not a moment to lose. To avoid more preventable heart attacks, higher levels of disability, and more lives lost, we must urgently see a specific plan for cardiovascular care recovery that commits to addressing the shortage of heart disease doctors and nurses. This would save lives now, and for generations to come.”

Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said:

‘This long-anticipated NHS elective recovery plan is welcome, but the challenge is daunting. Even before the outbreak of Omicron, waiting lists reached 6 million with over 300,000 patients waiting longer than 52 weeks.

‘The plan is realistic about the scale and complexity of the challenge, particularly the unknowns of how demand will bounce back and the future path of the pandemic. It’s clear that long waits will be with us for a while to come so a commitment to help patients ‘wait well’ and prepare for surgery is welcome. Support will also be needed for services outside hospitals, including social care, to ensure they have the necessary resources to recover.

‘While today’s plan is a step forward, it needed to go further. Notably, it acknowledges the disparities between different parts of England but there is a lack of concrete and targeted action to address them. Over 1 in 10 of those waiting in Birmingham and Solihull have already waited over a year, compared to just 1 in 100 in South West London and Surrey.

‘The main factor limiting progress on addressing the elective backlog and the wider recovery is longstanding staff shortages. Failing to come forward with a long-term workforce plan will undermine efforts to bring down waiting lists and put the NHS’s recovery at risk.’


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