| 26 September 2022, Monday |

Plan to tackle England’s NHS backlog delayed

A strategy to reduce the number of people on hospital waiting lists in England has been halted.

Details of the NHS England program were supposed to be released on Monday, but that has been postponed due to rumours of a last-minute intervention by Whitehall.

The government, on the other hand, has unveiled a new online tool that will allow patients who require non-urgent surgery to find out about waiting periods.

It is unclear when the whole plan will be released.

In November, a record six million people were on waiting lists in England for non-urgent surgeries and treatments, with the suspension of regular surgery at times during the epidemic adding to constraints that were already apparent before it began.

NHS England has developed a comprehensive strategy to address the backlog, which was widely expected to be released on Monday.

It is thought that this was supported across government, but due to a late intervention, most of the plan has been placed on hold.

The Treasury has not responded to accusations in the Daily Telegraph that it desired a publishing delay.

What has been announced is the launch of an online portal called My Planned Care later this month to provide patients waiting for normal surgery with additional openness about their local hospitals and information they may want while planning for their surgeries.

There will also be information on preventative programs, such as how to quit smoking and fitness routines, to ensure that patients are physically fit for surgery.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), one-third of on-the-spot cancellations of surgeries were due to patients not being clinically ready for treatment.

The platform will first be accessible via the NHS website, but it is planned that it will eventually be accessible via the NHS app.

Ministers in England consider clearing the backlog of non-urgent operations to be a top priority.

With this in mind, the chancellor unveiled his NHS spending intentions last autumn, as well as an increase in national insurance payments to cover additional money.

NHS England has developed a clear strategy for doing more procedures and streamlining the process.

Officials want to publish it as soon as possible after receiving support from Downing Street.

However, it appears that there was an intervention from one element of Whitehall over the weekend, and full publishing was halted.

One piece of the plan has already been disclosed, but there is much more to come.

It is unclear when the whole plan will be released or why, given the importance of the subject, one branch of government would seek to delay its release.

Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, stated that the My Planned Treatment platform, together with financing, will help “provide access to life-changing care and support for people regardless of who they are or where they reside.”

“At the height of the epidemic, the NHS was correctly focused on treating Covid-19 patients, but tragically, this has meant waiting lists have increased – and the Covid backlog will continue to climb,” he explained.

Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, stated that workers will be “working flat out to tackle the difficulties created by long delays.”

He stated that the platform was created to increase patient information before to treatment and prevent cancellations.

“The publishing of complete details of this strategy, which trust leaders helped build and anticipate to see soon,” he continued, “will be a watershed moment for the NHS.”

“Trusts will do all in their power to deliver the strategy and clear their backlogs as rapidly as feasible.”