NHS marks milestone in Recovery Plan as longest waits virtually eliminated in the Midlands

NHS staff in the Midlands were today praised for virtually eliminating the longest waits for scans, checks, surgical procedures and other routine treatment, the first milestone in the most ambitious catch-up plan in health service history.

The NHS Elective Recovery Plan, published earlier this year, set out how the health service would address the backlogs that have inevitably built up during Covid.

The first step in the plan was focused on those patients waiting two years or more by the end of July, except where they chose to wait longer, did not want to travel to be seen faster, or for very complex cases requiring specialist treatment.

The number of patients waiting more than two years for treatment has reduced significantly since January thanks to the hard work and dedication of NHS staff across the Midlands. The number who have waited two years or more in acute hospitals in the Midlands has fallen by over 89% (a reduction of 6,415 patients) since a peak of 7,183 in January 2022.

Thanks to the hard work and innovation of doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, radiologists and other NHS staff, just 768 patients at the end of July 2022 are now waiting who have either chosen to wait longer or require complex treatment in certain specialities.

In the East Midlands latest figures, subject to ongoing validation, show that 517 patients are now waiting, of whom 194 opted to defer treatment and 323 were very complex cases.

In the West Midlands, latest figures, subject to ongoing validation, show that 251 patients are now waiting, of whom 83 opted to defer treatment and 168 were very complex cases.

NHS staff are working hard to ensure the remaining patients who have not yet been treated are seen as quickly as possible.

Dr Nigel Sturrock, Regional Medical Director at NHS England in the Midlands, said:

“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff in the Midlands the NHS has delivered the first milestone in our Elective Recovery Plan.

“It has only been possible because the NHS has continued to reform the way we deliver care, using innovative techniques and adopting innovative new practices such as new perioperative care units to reduce the need for an intensive care bed, and through building new relationships and mutual aid arrangements across systems to offer patients the opportunity to be transferred elsewhere and get the care they need as quickly as possible.”

“We knew the waiting list would initially continue to grow as more people come forward for care who may have held off during the pandemic, but the NHS is determined to make the best possible use of the additional investment to address the backlogs and provide timely, expert care to as many people as possible, and virtually eliminating two-year waits shows we are continuing to make good progress for patients.”

“The next phase will focus on patients waiting longer than 18 months, building on the fantastic work already done, and while it is a significant challenge our remarkable staff have shown that when we are given the tools and resources we need, the NHS delivers for our patients.”

Notes to editor:

  • Patients remaining on the waiting lists fall under three categories – capacity, complex, and choice
  • Choice: Patients who have been offered a choice of another provider, but declined this offer (to remain with local hospital) and therefore chosen to wait longer than 104 weeks by the end of July 2022; or patients who have chosen to wait longer than 104 weeks by the end of July 2022 for other reasons
  • Complex: This includes where it would not be clinically safe to move a patient to another provider. This can only be determined by a clinician who has reviewed the patient record and spoken with the patient.
    • Examples include patients waiting for complex spinal surgery that can and should only be performed in a commissioned Specialist Spinal Surgery Centre.

Capacity/other: The remaining patients waiting over two years, who do not fall into the complexity or choice categories.