Over 6,000 NHS patients who have been waiting more than two years for treatment are being offered it in alternative parts of the country in an attempt to combat ever-increasing NHS waiting times.
Patients in England are being offered travel and accommodation costs, where appropriate, to assist the NHS to get through the backlog. It is reported that Health Officials want to make sure that no persons are waiting more than two years by the end of July.
Currently, in excess of 400 patients have already said they would be prepared to travel so that they can have treatment and 140 people are booked in for surgery at a different hospital. Cases reported by NHS England include:
- Three people in Derby have already received treatment at Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust – more than 100 miles away – with a further two patients booked in.
- 17 orthopaedic patients from the South West of England have been treated at South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre, with another 11 patients shortly set to follow.
According to the Health & Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, the move has already yielded a positive impact on waiting lists with the number of two-year waits being reduced by two-thirds since January. He said:
“Innovations like this are helping to tackle waiting lists and speed up access to treatment, backed by record investment, and there are over 90 community diagnostic centres delivering over one million checks and scans in the last year.”
Adding that through weekend clinics and dedicated surgery hubs, the NHS staff were making “great progress” in cutting pandemic backlogs.
The NHS Chief Executive, Amanda Pritchard, has commented that the backlog of people requiring and waiting more than two years for surgery will be “virtually eliminated” by the end of next month. She commented:
“As part of the biggest and most ambitious catch-up programme in NHS history, staff are now on track to virtually eliminate two-year waiters by the end of July.
“But the NHS will not stop here, from delivering one million tests and checks through our newly rolled-out community diagnostic centres to new state-of-the-art same-day hip replacements, staff are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to treat patients quicker, especially those who have been waiting a long time.”
The NHS has said that if patients decide not to travel and instead choose to wait longer, or if they are in highly-specialised areas requiring a tailored plan, they may not have received treatment by the end of the July target.
Whilst the news has been welcomed, the British Medical Association has warned that any attempts to cut treatment waits would ultimately be undermined by a lack of medical professionals and hospital beds.
British Medical Association leader, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, highlighted that there are currently 100,000 NHS vacancies in England and that this could worsen due to doctors feeling “utterly exhausted” and that their wellbeing was at “rock bottom”.
The latest NHS figures for last month showed it was the busiest May for emergency care, with 2.2 million people visiting A&E and almost 78,000 of the most urgent ambulance call-outs.
Whilst this news is positive and obviously a step in the right direction, the Government still needs to tackle the current workforce shortage in the NHS as more people who avoided care during the pandemic are now belatedly seeking medical attention.
The NHS has called on the Government to establish a fully funded and costed long-term workforce plan to address this problem as there are fundamental challenges across the nursing and doctor workforces, and other areas of the NHS staffing structure.