Dealing with the NHS backlog - a framework for recovery
23 April 2021
At the time of writing, the number of COVID-19 patients being admitted to hospitals in England is continuing to fall quickly from its peak in mid-January. This will be in a large part due to the third lockdown as well as the successful NHS rollout of the vaccine, which continues at pace and provides hope for all of us that some return to normality is on the horizon.
Whilst we may be able to regain many aspects of pre-pandemic life over the coming months, the NHS is now facing another extensive challenge - to restore and recover its planned care services. NHS England and Improvement’s most recent figures show a record waiting list of 4.6 million people waiting for elective treatment. The NHS Confederation warns that the scale of the problem is even higher - with 6 million fewer routine GP referrals last year indicating that there is a hidden waiting list of patients requiring treatment.
Long waits for specialist treatment are also a significant concern, in January 2021 the number of patients waiting over one year for treatment was 304,000, 185 times higher than a year before and the highest level since 2008.
Working through this volume of patients would have been a challenge for the NHS before the pandemic. But the sector must now restore and recover services with ongoing infection prevention and control protocols reducing capacity, and cognisant of the pressures staff have faced during what has been an extremely demanding year. This is reflected in the recently launched planning guidance, which puts restoration of planned activity at its centre and outlines funding models to reflect this priority accordingly.
We have been speaking to healthcare clients about the road to restoration and recovery of planned care in the midst of uncertainty. The situation continues to rapidly evolve, but our latest thinking can be found in our framework for NHS planned care restoration and recovery. This outlines the demand, capacity and execution issues likely to be faced across the sector in a way that breaks down the incredibly complex challenge into manageable, but related, pieces. Our hope is that this provides a structure through which we can all start to work through the complex issues, so robust plans are developed and implemented for the benefit of the population.
We will be publishing further content on planned care recovery and restoration in due course and would welcome the opportunity to hear thoughts or reflections on the framework linked above, so we invite you to get in touch.