As a direct consequence of the pandemic many patients are waiting longer for the treatments they need. We are committed to delivering more planned hospital activity and improving performance for the longest waiting patients across elective care and cancer in line with the Delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care. Unless patients choose to do so, we aim to ensure that by April 2023 no one waits longer than 18 months, and that waiting times reduce further in subsequent years.
Our commitments for 2022/23
Increasing capacity and transforming the way we provide elective care
- Support further separation of elective and emergency activity, including through increasing the number of surgical hubs, and delivery of investment through the Targeted Investment Fund to have a material impact on activity.
- Continue to accelerate diagnostic pathways through the roll out of community diagnostic centres.
- Work with NHS providers to increase activity and efficiency through good waiting list management, the Getting It Right First Time, High Volume Low Complexity Outpatient Transformation Programme.
- Work with independent sector (IS) providers to maximise the use of their available capacity and services through improving referral pathways to IS providers and ensuring that patients can make an informed choice about where they receive NHS-funded at point of referral.
Improving performance for the longest waiting patients
- Establish a mutual aid hub approach at system level to facilitate the transfer of long-waiting patients across system and regional boundaries.
Improving information and support for patients
- Develop guidance for local health systems in providing personalised and targeted help for patients and their carers in managing their symptoms and preventing deterioration while they wait, and recovering effectively.
- Continue to develop patient-facing information on waiting times and how those on waiting lists can help manage their condition through the My Planned Care platform.
Understanding and addressing inequalities
- Develop the Health Inequalities Improvement Dashboard to support local systems to pinpoint disparities in waiting times based on ethnicity and deprivation, enabling the NHS to take concerted action on these.
While cancer diagnosis and treatment were prioritised throughout the pandemic, the number of people presenting to their GP with cancer symptoms initially declined. Our national awareness campaigns have successfully encouraged more people to come forward, and over the last 12 months we have seen a record number of urgent GPs referrals. We have asked local systems to return the number of people waiting longer than 62 days to start cancer treatment (from the date they were urgently referred) back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023.
Our commitments for 2022/23
- Support the NHS to find, diagnose and treat the people who did not start treatment during the pandemic, thereby reducing the number of people waiting longer than 62 days to start treatment following urgent referral and improving performance against waiting times standards.
- Ensure sufficient diagnostic capacity to deliver the Faster Diagnosis Standard.
- Continue the rollout of non-specific symptoms pathways.
- Develop and run campaigns to help overcome fear or anxiety barriers to presentation, promoting screening uptake and increasing symptom awareness.
- Support the rollout of targeted lung health checks (TLHC) sites and increasing capacity through investment in computerised tomography scanner capacity.