NHS waiting lists: What can be done

Doctors in a hospital

NHS waiting lists: What can be done

Last night, BBC Panorama aired their latest documentary, NHS: Wait or Pay, which detailed the devastating effects of soaring NHS waiting list numbers, now standing at a record high of 5.61 million.

According to data from BBC Panorama, waiting lists have grown by 35-50 percent since the start of the pandemic, depending on where in the country you live. During the programme they spoke with people on NHS waiting lists who felt that they had no alternative but to go private, at a personal cost of tens of thousands of pounds. Many are forced to take out huge loans to cover these massive costs.

More people are coming forward to A&E and needing to be admitted to the hospital and have operations so the capacity in the NHS to do planned care is reduced. The longer that people are on waiting lists and having problems getting diagnoses are then appearing in the A&E system so it can become a vicious cycle. Anita Charlesworth – Chief Economist, The Health Foundation

Why are NHS waiting lists now so long?

Growing waiting lists have been a huge challenge for many years, as patient demand has increasingly exceeded NHS capacity across all specialties. However, the pandemic drastically exacerbated this problem as routine services had to be cancelled and rescheduled due to the need to redeploy resources towards emergency Covid treatment.

How can we decrease NHS wait times?

In order to decrease patient waiting times, NHS capacity must be increased across all specialties so that more specialist clinics can be opened. In many cases, this can be a case of finding more physical spaces in which a new clinics can be run or moving towards digital solutions wherever feasible.
The government recently announced that they would be investing £36 billion in the NHS and social care, £10 billion of which would be used to help address the waiting list backlog caused by the pandemic. However, according to the Health Foundation, this amount will not go far enough and they suggest that NHS waiting lists are likely to remain very high for years to come.

Navigating the changing NHS landscape

How then, can NHS Trusts address growing waiting lists, despite these significant challenges?
The NHS doctor shortage is a major factor affecting capacity and so many trusts are relying on agency locums and bank workers as a temporary additional resource to tackle backlogs via unbudgeted spend. However, waiting lists have reached such critical mass that most sources agree that it will take many years to stabilise waiting lists and therefore trusts should look to employ into long-term fixed term contracts to decompress their waiting lists.
In addition to the financial savings generated through employing this strategy, utilising fixed-term doctors will greatly improve continuity of care by having the same trained staff consistently working on clinics. Specifically, by increasing the number of fixed-term hires at senior clinical levels (ST4 and above), more clinics can be opened because they can run clinics independently with a nurse.
At Remedium, we are on a mission to solve the NHS healthcare staffing crisis. If you are interested in learning how Remedium can support your NHS Trust to drive more efficient and consistent patient-centered care, get in touch with us today.

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