Following the coronavirus pandemic lockdown in 2020, the NHS has fallen behind in surgery waiting times targets and outcomes. In recent reports, it was estimated that there is now a backlog of 4.4 million patients waiting for some form of NHS care.

This blog will discuss the pandemic's impact on the NHS surgery waiting times and how technology can be used to improve the patient experience.

The Impact of the Pandemic on NHS Waiting Times

The NHS has seen an increased demand for treatment and routine care due to the backlog from the coronavirus pandemic. In January 2022, there was an average of more than 500 12-hour waits for emergency treatment each day. It was also reported that the number of people waiting over a year for treatment has risen by a staggering 186% since the pandemic began.

The NHS Constitution for England sets a standard that 92% of people waiting for elective (non-urgent) treatment should wait no longer than 18 weeks from their referral to their first treatment. This standard was last met in February 2016 and performance has continued to decline following the pandemic. 

The NHS will have to recover demand back to pre-pandemic levels in the coming years. In 2020, the King’s Fund predicted that 'the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on waiting times for NHS patients will be felt for years to come.’


The NHS Delivery Plan

As a part of the new NHS delivery plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic backlog, new elective care targets have been set to reflect the impact. Plans include:

  • That waiting times longer than a year for elective care are eliminated by March 2025
  • Waiting times will not exceed two years by July 2022 and waits of over 18 months will be eliminated by April 2023
  • 95% of patients needing a diagnostic test receive it within six weeks by March 2025

Alongside tackling additional demand, such as the Integrated Care Systems transition (ICS), the delivery plan will be a multi-year challenge. Not only does the backlog encompass medical and emergency care, but primary, community care and mental health services also.


How the NHS Can Improve Services

Following the response to the pandemic, the government allocated £33.8 billion to NHS services in the 2021/2022 financial year. This can be spent on new technologies for e-consulting, e-rostering and automating processes to increase capacity and time efficiency.

The NHS Long Term Plan outlines the necessity for more electronic roster adoption across all foundations in England. E-rostering enables organisations to respond dynamically to challenges such as changing demography and changing patient needs. Open and transparent e-rostering processes can improve:


Staff and patient engagement - Using electronic management systems gives more clarity on what needs prioritising. This helps drive efficiency and faster service to patients.

Process autonomy - E-job planning allows workforces to oversee availability across whole departments and capacity in line with outcome aims. This will help boost staff morale and reduce stress during busy times.

Patient satisfaction - Using e-job planning services can ensure the right staff are on call and working in the most demanding areas. This can ensure patients receive the care they need and organisations can better manage their workforce and financial efficiency.


Why Innovative Technology Is Key to Faster Outcomes

The 2019 British Social Attitudes survey found that taking too long to get a GP or hospital appointment is the second-most common reason for dissatisfaction with the NHS. By utilising the most time-effective technology available, the NHS can improve patient satisfaction and the confidence of both staff and patients. 

Time efficiency can be increased by investing in automated processes such as the NHS RightCare Platform and the Medicine Optimisation Dashboard. E-platforms can manage, automate and optimise data, saving capacity across all health services. E-rostering can improve workload allocation for hospital staff, helping increase employee retention when it is needed the most.


Want to Learn More About Innovative Technology?

As the NHS continues to work towards clearing the NHS backlog, the latest technology must be used to assist this process. E-rostering services can reduce waiting times through administrative processes that prioritise patients who need the most urgent care. 

Register for your free place at the 2022 HETT Show to learn about the latest e-services for faster waiting times in England.

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