8 February 2022
Commenting on the Secretary of State’s announcement in the House of Commons today and the ‘Delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care’, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:
“The elective care delivery plan presented by the Secretary of State is welcome. It is right that there is an urgent need to tackle the elective care backlog – which had reached extraordinarily high levels even before to the pandemic – and it is essential that these patients are able to receive the care they desperately need that is delayed no longer. We particularly welcome the renewed focus on increasing capacity which will aid the recovery of elective care and help alleviate other system pressures.
“However, it is disappointing to see little to no acknowledgement of the workforce and social care crisis. Introducing new initiatives and pouring resources into elective care while failing to acknowledge or address the biggest challenges facing the health service – workforce and social care – is a missed opportunity. We must see a long-term workforce plan and a plan for social care published to support the elective care delivery plan.
“The entire health care system has been under unprecedented pressure for the past two years. Performance and waiting times across many departments have rapidly declined. In urgent and emergency care these pressures persist, and staff have had no rest or respite – many face burnout and are overwhelmed. Ambulance delays have reached record levels, along with 12-hour waits in Emergency Departments while patient safety is constantly at risk.
“At the same time, the number of long-stay patients has increased significantly, especially those who no longer meet the criteria to reside. It is becoming increasingly challenging to discharge patients in a timely way, which creates exit block and reduces flow throughout the hospital. This is a consequence of the social care crisis. A health system with a functioning social care system would foster timely discharge, good flow, and more available beds.
“Elective care and urgent and emergency care are inextricably linked. Without addressing these huge problems and viewing the system in a holistic way, urgent and emergency care could further derail elective care – just as we have previously seen when elective care has been cancelled or put on hold. The Secretary of State must recognise this inextricable link and recognise that for the elective care delivery plan to be successfully implemented, an Urgent and Emergency Care recovery plan must be published and implemented in tandem.”