Sajid Javid gave a speech in the commons on Tuesday regarding the government’s plan to deal with the current backlog of NHS patients.
According to the Secretary of State for Health, the NHS currently has 6 million people waiting for elective care, up from 4.4 million before the pandemic. The number of people who have experienced waiting times longer than a year is 300,000, up from 1600 before the pandemic and there are around 10 million people believed to have avoided going to the NHS due to the pandemic.
Sajid Javid said the waiting list is expected to get worse before it gets better, as the 10 million who had avoided seeing a doctor during the pandemic start seeking care.
He also stated that while 96% of people in need of a diagnostic test recieved them before the pandemic, that number is now down to 75%.
The statement promised to create more community diagnosis centres and surgical hubs across the UK, and to create a new website called “myplannedcare” to provide tailored information for patients.
Javid set out the following goals:
- Give the NHS the capacity to do at least 9 million extra tests and procedures each year, along with an increase of 20% in elective treatments, by 2025
- Start reducing the size of the waiting list by March 2024
- Eliminate waits longer than a year by 2025
- Return number of people waiting more than 62 days from an urgent cancer referral back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023
- Ensuring that 75% of patients that have been urgently referred have cancer ruled out or are diagnosed within 28 days by March 2024
- Get the number of people receiving needed diagnostic tests to 95% by march 2025
The health secretary said of the plans:
“It won’t just reset the NHS to where it was before covid, but build on what we have learnt over the past two years to transform elective services and make sure they are fit for the future.”
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, said that of the plan:
“It falls seriously short of the scale of the challenge that is facing the NHS. There is no plan to tackle the workforce crises. No plan to deal with delayed discharges. No plan to eliminate waits of more than a year before the general election. It seems their only plan is to create a website that tells people they’re going to be waiting a long time”
“It seems the Secretary of State declared a war on cancer, after a decade of disarming the NHS, and now he is sending them into battle empty handed.”
He also told the commons that one official had said that the chancellor may have been “reluctant to rescue Boris”, and therefore blocked the part of the scheme that would have dealt with the workforce problem.
“One government official said the plan is being blocked by the chancellor who is ‘reluctant to rescue the prime minister’. Putting aside the appalling spectacle of the tory leadership crisis impacting on life and death decision-making in government, it seems from the statement that the chancellor has won the day. What other explanation can there be for a plan to recover the NHS and bing down waiting lists that doesn’t contain a workforce plan. The single biggest challenge facing the NHS is the workforce challenge. there are 93,000 staffing vacancies in the NHS today. It is understaffed, overworked, and if he is not careful he will lose more people than he is able to recruit.”
“It’s clear from what the Secretary of State said today … that the Conservatives are hoping to blame the state of NHS waiting lists on the pandemic … but this isn’t a covid backlog; it’s a tory backlog.”
Savid Javid responded by saying that denying the existence of a covid backlog was absurd and that he had asked the NHS to draw up a “long term 10 year+ workforce strategy” but had yet to receive it.