Covid: Plan to tackle England's NHS backlog delayed – BBC


By Doug Faulkner & Becky Morton
BBC News

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A last minute intervention in Whitehall has delayed plans to tackle the backlog of patients on hospital waiting lists in England.
Details of the NHS England scheme were expected to be published on Monday.
The health secretary denied reports the Treasury had blocked the announcement, blaming the Omicron wave for the delay.
However, the government has announced a new online service that will allow people needing non-urgent surgery to get information about waiting times.
Sajid Javid told BBC Breakfast the full plan was due to be released in early December but the emergence of the new, more transmissible coronavirus variant meant the focus shifted to the booster programme.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a visit to a hospital in Kent that the government would set out more details "in the course of the week".
"We're now working with the NHS to set some tough targets so that we are able to deliver for patients and also for the taxpayer," he said.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the Treasury had refused to sign off the plans.
But Mr Javid denied this, saying the Treasury was "an excellent partner" and "we have a great relationship".
"There's no issue around the money at all. It's all about just making sure that when you publish something so ambitious and so important, we do want to make sure across government everything is agreed and everyone is behind the plan," he said.
A government spokesperson said: "We are united in our plan to clear the NHS's record backlog as we recover from the pandemic."
A record six million patients were on waiting lists for non-urgent operations and procedures in England in November, with the suspension of routine surgery during certain periods of the pandemic adding to pressures which were already clear before it began.
Mr Javid said the figure would rise before it starts to fall because an estimated eight to nine million people stayed away from the NHS at the height of the pandemic – but it was difficult to know how high it could go.
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When patients arrive at hospital by ambulance they should be handed over within 15 minutes. This data shows the proportion of ambulance patients who waited 30 minutes or more, in the week shown. It comes from daily situation reports which are published weekly during the winter in England. As this is fast-turnaround data, the NHS says only minimal validation can be carried out but it is considered fit for purpose.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do not publish ambulance queue data.
Patients at A&E should be seen within four hours of arrival. This data shows the proportion of patients attending A&E who waited longer than four hours to be treated, discharged or admitted.
This data is published monthly for England and Wales and weekly for Scotland. Northern Ireland publishes its data quarterly and Winter 2021 is not yet available.
If a patient at A&E needs to be admitted, the wait from decision to admit to being given a bed on a ward is recorded in England. The bed waits figure is the proportion of patients admitted via A&E who waited longer than four hours for a ward bed.
In Wales, bed wait data is not published, so the figure shown is the occupancy level in general and acute beds. Scotland and Northern Ireland do not publish bed wait or bed occupancy data.
Data for England is show by NHS trust, where the trust includes at least one hospital with a Type 1 A&E department. Type 1 means a consultant-led 24 hour A&E service with full resuscitation facilities.
When you enter a postcode for a location in England you will be shown a list of NHS trusts in your area. They will not necessarily be in order of your closest hospital as some trusts have more than one hospital. Data for Wales and Scotland are shown by NHS board.
Comparative data from two years ago is shown where available. However, where trusts have merged there is no like-for-like comparison to show. Bed occupancy data in Wales only goes back to April 2020.
If you can't see the lookup, click here
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents the healthcare system, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the delay was "frustrating" as the plan had been agreed with NHS leaders who "want to get on with the work".
However, with an unknown number of people not included in waiting list figures because they did not come forward for treatment during the pandemic, he warned that "unrealistic" targets could end up "skewing clinical priorities".
Tell us how you have been affected by the issues raised in this story.
There's a golden rule in politics: when two senior politicians do a joint event, or write a joint article (I've always wondered who holds the pen), the chances are they've had the lightest smattering of recent disagreements.
Well, the prime minister and the chancellor are out and about together today.
Last week, Rishi Sunak pointedly publicly disagreed with the prime minister's comments about Sir Keir Starmer and Jimmy Savile.
Meanwhile, a big plan for sorting out the massive waiting lists in the NHS in England has been kiboshed, for now.
We understand the plan was fully written and approved by the Department of Health.
But it's currently squashed under a lever arch file somewhere in the bowels of government.
Some sources are pointing fingers at the Treasury.
Others say there's still discussion – read argument – between No 10, the Treasury and Department of Health.
Plenty will argue when you're talking about massive amounts of public money, of course there must be scrutiny and accountability about how it'll be spent.
But it means having to wait a bit longer before we see the plan – although perhaps only a couple of days.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said the parts of the plan being held up included measures to free up clinician time, support for trusts working together, use of the independent sector and how funding will be allocated.
She told Today that high staff absences caused by Omicron had caused significant disruption and it was important NHS leaders saw the full plan to tackle the backlog "as quickly as possible".
Labour's Jonathan Ashworth said the government was in "utter chaos" and while it was "preoccupied" with Boris Johnson's future "the needs of the British people are not met".
"We need a plan and the NHS is in a desperate crisis because of years of underfunding, years of Tory failure to recruit the doctors and nurses that we need, years of Tory cuts," the shadow work and pensions secretary told the BBC.
What has been announced is an online platform called My Planned Care, which will be launched later this month, to give patients waiting for routine surgery increased transparency about their local hospitals and information they might need while preparing for their operations.
There will also be advice on prevention services, such as how to stop smoking and exercise plans, to make sure people are fit for surgery.
The platform will initially be available through the NHS website but it is expected it will become available through the NHS app in the future.
A third of on-the-day cancellations of operations were due to people not being clinically ready for treatment, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
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