Urgent action is needed in the NHS to meet a ballooning backlog of procedures put on hold during the pandemic and build a more resilient health care system. This report from Reform, produced jointly with Edge Health, shows the scale of the challenges the NHS faces:
- 6 million fewer patients were referred to treatment in 2020 than in 2019 • 10 million patients could be on a waitlist by April
- By April, 52-week waits for care are projected to have risen 12,008% since March 2020 (by December they had already risen by 7139%)
- Cancellations of diagnostic testing and delayed treatment may lead to 1,660 extra deaths from lung cancer alone.
- Recommendation 1: NHS England and Improvement should mandate the publication of waitlist recovery plans by integrated care systems and trusts. These should clearly state how independent sector capacity will be used and usage data should be published at regular intervals.
- Recommendation 2: NHS England and Improvement should devote resources to building ‘community diagnostic hubs’ to meet the diagnostic backlog outside of the hospital setting.
- Recommendation 3: The General Medical Council should create an ‘NHS reserve list’ with healthcare professionals who are not currently working in the NHS but would be willing to re-join to respond to a crisis. A training programme should be developed in collaboration with Health Education England, with clear guidance on the content and frequency of training for members of the reserve list.
- Recommendation 4: Health Education England should overhaul the way it provides training during a crisis. It should seek to provide training modules that present easily and quickly digestible information.
- Recommendation 5: The Government should provide funding for NHS England and the social care system to increase the number of beds. This should be based on a clear independent review of bed capacity in the health and care system focused on increasing its long-term resilience. The review should focus on understanding how many extra beds the NHS needs, what type of beds and a clear plan to improve patient flow and reduce any delays to patients being transferred or discharged.
- Recommendation 6: The Department of Health and Social Care, in conjunction with NHS Supply Chain, should produce end-to-end supply chain maps for critical diagnostic equipment and make them publicly available.
- Recommendation 7: The Department of Health and Social Care should build and publish a register of firms capable of switching their production lines to produce diagnostic equipment and perform diagnostic analysis in the case of health emergencies.
- Recommendation 8: The Department of Health and Social Care should continue to develop and maintain an up-to-date inventory of key assets, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.
- Recommendation 9: NHS England and Improvement and NHSX should mandate the adoption of the Scan4Safety programme to all NHS Trusts. This will help increase the accuracy of operational data and patient safety.