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Elective recovery - media fact sheet

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This fact sheet sets out the actions the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England are taking to bring down waiting lists for non-urgent care including planned operations.


Q: What is being done to tackle the Covid backlogs?

  • Tackling the Covid backlogs is our absolute priority. We have prioritised health and social care in the Autumn Statement, with up to £14.1 billion available over the next two years on top of record funding to tackle the backlog, speed up discharge and ensure patients are getting the care they deserve quickly.
  • The NHS has published their Elective Recovery Plan setting out their plans to:
    • Eliminating waits of longer than a year for elective care by March 2025.
    • By July 2022, no one will wait longer than two years for an elective treatment.
    • The NHS will aim to eliminate waits of over 18 months by April 2023.
    • Three quarters of patients who have been urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer will be diagnosed, or have cancer ruled out within 28 days.
    • Returning the number of people waiting more than 62 days from an urgent referral back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023.
    • Deliver around 30% more elective activity by 2024/25 than before the pandemic, after accounting for the impact of an improved care offer.
  • The NHS will publish full recovery plans for the urgent and emergency care and primary care systems, including interim milestones, in the new year.


Q: How is this being achieved?

  • We are delivering extra life-saving tests, checks and scans through our community diagnostics centres (CDCs), located in accessible sites from shopping centres to football stadiums to GP surgeries.
  • Since July 2021, 94 CDCs have already opened and delivered more than 3 million tests, and we are investing £2.3 billion to transform diagnostic care, including opening up to 160 CDCs by 2025.
  • We recently announced an additional 19 CDC locations, bringing the total number of approved locations to 127, over 80% of the government’s intention to open up to 160 CDCs to perform up to nine million additional tests a year by 2025.
  • We have committed a further £1.5 billion to expand and increase the number of surgical hubs with the ambition to have 140 hubs opened by 2025. 92 are already open helping people get the surgery they need.
  • These new hubs are expected to provide an additional 122 operating theatres and 1212 protected elective beds
  • We have launched an Elective Recovery Taskforce which has been asked to advise the government on where extra capacity in the independent sector can be utilised by the NHS to treat more patients, e.g., in specific specialisms or in different parts of the country.


Q: What progress has been made to date on tackling the Covid backlogs? 

  • NHS staff have been working incredibly hard to tackle the Covid backlogs, treating more than 15 million patients in the last year.
  • The NHS has virtually eliminated waits of more than two years for treatment – the first major target in our elective recovery plan, and has slashed 18-month waits by 83% since their peak in September 2021.


Q: Will waiting lists continue to rise?

  • Due to the unprecedented pressures of Omicron, the NHS has treated more patients in hospital during the summer than the last two combined, adding further pressure on its elective recovery plan than anticipated.
  • We expect waiting lists to continue to grow as those who did not seek treatment during the pandemic come forward.
  • However, we are remain committed to bringing down waiting lists by March 2025 in line with the NHS Elective Recovery Plan.


Q: Does the NHS offer a seven-day service?

  • The NHS already operates a seven-day service with staff working across the weekend in A&Es, pharmacies, urgent treatment centres, ambulance services, GP practices and vaccination centres
  • Planned care is also delivered over weekends in hospitals including operations, outpatient appointments, and diagnostic tests and check.
  • We expect Trusts to provide a high-quality service seven days a week and are giving £8 billion to the NHS and social care to tackle the backlog and improve urgent and emergency care.
  • The Health and Social Care secretary has been clear patient safety must be at the heart of everything the NHS does and is committed to using data and working alongside staff to improve care.

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