THE patient backlog built up because of Covid-19 will take five years to clear with nearly five million people currently waiting for treatment, NHS chiefs have warned.
NHS Providers, which represents every NHS hospital, and mental health, community and ambulance service in England, said tackling the problem in the worst affected areas could take three to five years.
🔵 Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest updates
A member of staff at the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge wears PPE gear to treat a patient in the ICUCredit: Getty
Vaccinator Nicole Clark prepares a Covid-19 vaccination at the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital in GlasgowCredit: Getty
According to recent data from NHS England, 4.7million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of February – the highest figure since records began in August 2007.
The number waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment was 387,885 – the highest for any calendar month since December 2007.
In February last year, the number having to wait more than 52 weeks was 1,613.
NHS Providers has called for a “bold transformative approach” with additional funding from the Government to clear the backlog in a reasonable period of time.
A medical staff member tends to a Covid patient in an ICUCredit: Getty
Chief executive Chris Hopson said: “Early work by trust leaders shows there is a huge backlog to clear.
“Trust leaders are going as fast as they can in tackling the most urgent cancer, surgery and other cases. They are only too aware of the impact of delays.
“The scale of the backlog ahead is very worrying.
“Some chief executives are adamant we must avoid returning to the situation in the early 2000s, when the NHS had far too many people waiting for years, not months, on waiting lists.
“What’s needed now is a team approach – the NHS transforming how it provides care and the Government providing the extra funding required to enable that transformation.
The scale of the backlog ahead is very worrying
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson
“We need to work together over the next few months to create a joint plan to deliver for patients and service users to be announced in the multi-year spending review we are expecting at the end of the year.”
Mr Hopson added the issue is not just about elective and cancer backlogs in acute hospitals, but also patients and service users waiting for mental health and community services.
The organisation said the changes needed include an increase in workforce capacity, investment in a new network of community diagnostic hubs and new ways of treating patients.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Our NHS has faced significant challenges over the past year and we continue to support our incredible health and care staff who have kept services open this winter for thousands of patients.
“We are backing our NHS with an extra £7 billion for health and care services this year, bringing our total additional Covid-19 investment to £92 billion.
“This includes £1 billion to support NHS recovery by tackling waiting lists and providing up to one million extra checks, scans and additional operations.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged the Government will provide the NHS with what it needs to tackle the problem.
He said: “We’re going to make sure that we give the NHS all the funding that it needs, as we have done throughout the pandemic, to beat the backlog.”
NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson wants a ‘team approach’ to tackle the problemCredit: PA:Press Association
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.