Whilst recovery plans are underway, and significant efforts are being made by the NHS and its support partners including Medinet, waiting times continue to rise. According to the latest statistics from NHS England and NHS Improvement, there are still major shortfalls in the provision of consultant-led elective care services throughout the country. The NHS will have to double its efforts in using capacity from the independent sector across even more specialities including those that have not traditionally been insourced such as day case orthopaedic surgery.
THE LATEST POSITION
The UK Gov’s 18-week standard – which states that at least 92% of patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks between GP referral and treatment for elective services – is far from being met. Instead, the latest figures (current at the end of October 2021) suggest that in fact, only 65.6% of patients are on the NHS elective care waiting list for less than 18 weeks, a figure which falls considerably short of the 92% standard.
Currently, there are still 6 million patients on NHS waiting lists and of those, 312,665 have already been waiting for more than 52 weeks. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), 5% of people are waiting for over 12 months for treatment.
Even more worrying, the NAO estimates that there could be up to 9.1 million ‘missing referrals’ for elective care treatments, a direct result of interruptions to healthcare services which have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these ‘missing referrals’, the NAO has reported that between 240,000 and 740,000 are for cancer care.
Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on acute care has been keenly felt for the past 18 months, NHS services are already making very real attempts to return to normal service provision and reduce backlogs in elective care as quickly as possible.
However, reducing backlogs in a meaningful way is not an easy task, and achieving the broader 92% standard is simply unfeasible under current conditions.
THE WINTER CRISIS FACED BY THE NHS
Health services throughout the country are also dealing with the usual winter pressures of seasonal conditions such as flu, respiratory illnesses and the effects of cold weather on vulnerable populations.
But this year, the situation for the NHS is even more complicated. Not only are waiting lists at record levels, there also are large-scale staffing shortages, whilst existing staff are overworked and in many cases, suffering from stress or even burnout.
Added to this, the NHS is faced with the renewed threat of yet another COVID-19 variant – Omicron – the effects of which are likely to be felt throughout critical care services.
The UK Gov has set the NHS a target of increasing elective care to 10% more than pre-pandemic levels in 2024-25, however current recovery plans are not sufficient to address these shortfalls.
Under these unprecedented and challenging conditions, the NHS is unlikely to meet its 92% standard before 2024 unless radical steps are taken to address shortages in staffing and capacity.
With the UK Gov pledging ongoing financial support to ‘Build Back Better’ health and social care services, there is an opportunity for the independent sector to adopt a more significant role in restoring healthcare services to normal levels, tackling the elective care backlog, reducing waiting lists and helping the NHS to achieve its 92% standard in the shortest possible time.
HOW MEDINET CAN HELP
We are the leading provider of dedicated clinical care teams with actual deliverable capacity and real expertise in many specialities. We deliver elective care services which meet regulatory standards and help reduce waiting lists, quickly.
Working across a range of specialities including rheumatology, ENT, gynaecology, oncology, general surgery, dermatology, urology and ophthalmology, we will help you to recover to pre-pandemic positions have we have done for many departments across the UK.
GET IN TOUCH
To see how we have done this and to understand how Medinet can reduce waiting lists and get your elective services back on track, then get in touch. We’ll help you find a solution which fits in with your existing workflows, but makes an immediate impact.