By taking action to keep non-COVID-19 services going, the NHS has been able to deliver more than 12 million planned operations and procedures, and over 19 million key diagnostic tests, during the pandemic. Despite caring for a far greater number of COVID-19 patients in the second peak, hospitals also maintained high levels of planned care compared to the previous year, and average waiting times for planned surgery have fallen by almost 40% from July 2020.
However, we know that – despite the best efforts of hardworking NHS staff – the pressure on staff, beds and equipment, combined with the enhanced infection prevention and control measures necessary to keep people safe, has disrupted non-urgent care and meant that many people have had to wait longer for treatment than they usually would.
Thanks to the success of the world-leading NHS vaccine programme, we can now refocus our resources to rapidly recovering routine NHS services and we are pleased to announce we have been chosen to be one of the first of a small number of areas in the country to formally ‘accelerate’ the restoration of services. Being part of this Government initiative will provide funding to help us prioritise and see as many people as possible from all waiting lists in the next three months. We can restart those elements of routine non-urgent care which were paused and begin to catch up on the backlog of people waiting, which may mean some temporary changes to the place people have their treatment so we can treat people as quickly as possible.
This is great news for patients in the region, particularly those whose appointments and procedures have been postponed due to the pandemic.
Our hospitals will be working together to make some very big inroads in their collective waiting lists over the next three months. Consultants will be looking at who has the greatest clinical need and who has waited the longest and prioritising people against these two key principles as they begin to scale up to see and treat as many more people as they can.
Some people may be asked to see a different consultant for their treatment, or have their procedures in a different hospital to the one they may have expected to have gone to, including private hospitals in the independent sector. This is to ensure safe and timely care is provided, given the delays experienced due to the pandemic.
We know many people waiting for treatment will be disappointed or worried, and you will be contacted as soon as possible over the coming weeks. Please continue to bear with us and our hospital colleagues.
Thank you to our patients for their continued support and patience.