The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the amount of planned care the NHS has been able to provide. This delivery plan sets out how the NHS will recover elective care over the next three years. It has been developed with a wide range of expert partners and explains how the NHS will capitalise on current success and embed new ideas to ensure elective services are fit for the future.
The plan focuses on four areas of delivery:
- Increasing health service capacity, through the expansion and separation of elective and diagnostic service capacity. The physical separation of elective from urgent and emergency services ensures the resilience of elective delivery, as well as providing service efficiency. This will include a strengthened relationship with independent sector providers to accelerate recovery.
- Prioritising diagnosis and treatment, including a return towards delivery of the six-week diagnostic standard and reducing the maximum length of time that patients wait for elective care and treatment.
- Transforming the way the NHS provides elective care; for example, by reforming the way outpatient appointments are delivered, making it more flexible for patients and driven by a focus on clinical risk and need, and increasing activity through dedicated and protected surgical hubs.
- Providing better information and support to patients, supported by better data and information to help inform patient decisions, and in time, making greater use of the NHS App to better manage appointments, bookings and the sharing of information. The NHS will ensure patients have choice at the point of referral, and this will be enhanced for long-waiting patients through a national hub model.
The plan also sets out the following key ambitions:
- That waits of longer than a year for elective care will be eliminated by March 2025. Within this, by July 2022, no one will wait longer than two years, the NHS will aim to eliminate waits of over 18 months by April 2023, and of over 65 weeks by March 2024. Long-waiting patients will be offered further choice about their care, and over time, as the NHS brings down the longest waits from over two years to under one year, this will be offered sooner.
- Diagnostic tests are a key part of many elective care pathways - 95% of patients needing a diagnostic test should receive it within six weeks by March 2025.
- By March 2024, 75% of patients who have been urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer are diagnosed or have cancer ruled out within 28 days. This will help contribute to the existing NHS Long Term Plan ambitions on early diagnosis. Local systems have also been asked to return the number of people waiting more than 62 days from an urgent referral back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023.
- For patients who need an outpatient appointment, the time they wait can be reduced by transforming the model of care and making greater use of technology. The NHS will work with patient groups and stakeholders to better monitor and improve both waiting times and patients’ experience of waiting for first outpatient appointments over the next three years.