NHS waiting-list backlog will take years to clear, ministers say

pharmafile | February 9, 2022 | News story | |   

Ministers say that the waiting list for hospital treatment will not start falling for two years, in spite of unveiling a plan to tackle England’s backlog in care. There are currently six million people on a waiting list – one in nine of the population.

Health secretary Sajid Javid has also warned that this number is likely to increase, as demand is expected to rise in the wake of easing COVID-19 pressures. Javid also set out plans to reduce waiting times for cancer treatment. These include a 28-day target for cancer diagnosis by March 2024, which should have been introduced last year but was delayed by the pandemic.

The proportion of cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days would return to its pre-pandemic level by March 2023, although this would still fall short of the 85% target, according to Mr Javid.

Javid also said that waiting times would be cut by a 30% rise in the NHS’s capacity for treatment, but it will be necessary to establish a network of 160 community diagnostic centres, along with surgical hubs focused on high-volume routine surgery away from major hospital sites – to increase efficiency and reduce the chance of emergency cases leading to cancellations.

NHS England CEO Amanda Pritchard said tackling the backlog would take time and “cannot happen overnight”. However, she promised the health service would apply the same “can-do” spirit it had throughout the pandemic.

Lina Adams

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