The elective surgery recovery plan - tackling the COVID backlog.

I have recieved the following briefing about the plan to address the huge backlog of elective surgery cases which has built up during the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Throughout the pandemic the NHS was focused on treating Covid patients and delivering the fastest booster rollout in Europe, however this means waiting lists for elective care have inevitably risen.
  • That is why we have developed an ambitious plan to tackle the backlogs in planned hospital care by increasing capacity in the NHS, prioritising diagnosis and treatment, and transforming the way we provide elective care, including through new dedicated surgical hubs.
  • Our record funding to tackle the backlog and invest in diagnosis and treatment will help us to provide access to life changing care and support for people, no matter who they are or where they live, and ensure that waiting lists are falling by March 2024.

We are busting the backlogs by

  • Increasing capacity in our NHS with an extra £2 billion this year for elective recovery, so that is has the resources it needs to face the challenge ahead as we recover from the pandemic. Over the next three years we are investing an additional £8 billion into elective recovery and almost £6 billion extra in capital investments for new beds, equipment and technology – providing at least 9 million extra checks, scans and procedures and around 30 per cent more elective activity than before the pandemic by 2024–25 to eliminate waits of longer than a year for elective care by March 2025.
  • Prioritising diagnosis and treatment to reduce the backlogs, including through our Community Diagnostic Centres and Surgical Hubs. More than 100 diagnostic centres will be rolled out, with 66 set to be in use across England by the end of March – 26 more than previously planned – to meet our ambition for 95 per cent of patients needing a diagnostic test receiving one within six weeks by March 2025. New surgical hubs will focus on high-volume routine surgery so more patients can get seen more quickly, making efficient use of taxpayer resources. 
  • Delivering on our ambition for 75 per cent of patients who are urgently referred for suspected cancer to be diagnosed or have cancer ruled out within 28 days by March 2024. The NHS continued to prioritise cancer treatment throughout the pandemic and we have consistently seen record levels of urgent cancer referrals since March 2021 – we are building on this by setting the target to return the number of people waiting more than 62 days from an urgent referral back to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023. 
  • Giving patients greater control over their own healthcare and offering them more choice if they are waiting too long for treatment. A new digital service will give patients greater clarity on when they should expect treatment and deliver personalised support to help them prepare. We will put people in control of their own health by giving them the right to swap to a different provider if they are waiting too long, providing a more personalised service and freeing up appointments for those who need them.
  • Providing support and information to patients by using technology to improve the management of appointments and patients symptoms. We will use better data and information to help inform patient decisions and use the NHS App to better manage appointments, bookings and the sharing of information. We will ensure patients have choice at the point of referral and through a national hub model to giving patients essential information and support while they wait for and receive treatment.

We are supporting our NHS as we build back better by:

  • Delivering the biggest catch-up programme in the NHS’s history, so that everyone can get the care they deserve. Over the next three years, we will invest an extra £36 billion in funding for health and social care, delivering around nine million more checks, scans and procedures – elective activity will be around 30 per cent higher than pre-pandemic. 
  • Investing the biggest cash boost in history for the NHS and enshrining that increase in law, to safeguard it for future generations. We are investing an additional £33.9 billion in frontline NHS services every year by 2023-24, the largest and longest funding settlement in the history of the NHS. 
  • Delivering a long-term solution to end unpredictable and catastrophic social care costs faced by thousands of people so they can receive care at home. From October 2023, we will cover all care costs for those with under £20,000, quadrupling the means-tested support limit from £23,500 to £100,000, and ending uncertainty by introducing a lifetime care costs cap of £86,000. No one will need to sell the home they or their spouse live in during either of their lifetimes to pay for care. 
  • Improving access to GP appointments with a plan backed by £250 million – so that patients can see their GP in the way they want, no matter where they live. Our plan includes a £250 million winter access fund to provide general practices with targeted support to tackle underperformance, taking pressure off staff so they can spend more time with patients and increase the number of face-to-face appointments. 
  • Making the largest health capital investment in a decade, making a real difference to the lives of NHS staff and patients. Our £3.7 billion hospital building programme is the biggest of its kind in a generation, which will deliver 40 hospital projects by 2030 to help provide early diagnoses and tackle NHS backlogs. 


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