MPs report warns of challenge of addressing NHS backlog

Omicron and emergency care crisis could derail plans to tackle the NHS backlog, warn MPs
Hospital sign with floor names

Review of how backlog of planned care can be tackled

The Health and Social Care Committee looked at how the backlog of planned NHS treatment will be overcome.

It calls for a broad national health and care recovery plan to include mental health, primary care, community care, and social care as well as emergency care. 

It finds better workforce planning to be a central factor in recovery and that the Government has not put in place an independent assessment of workforce numbers to help guide planning and therefore the is a lack of information about what workforce is needed.

Recovery plans are threatened by pressure on emergency care with a record number of 999 calls and waiting times in emergency departments at record levels. 

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP said:

“The NHS faces an unquantifiable challenge in tackling a backlog of cases caused by the pandemic, with 5.8 million patients waiting for planned care and estimates that the figure could double by 2025. 

“However, our Report finds that the Government’s recovery plans risk being thrown off course by an entirely predictable staffing crisis. The current wave of Omicron is exacerbating the problem, but we already had a serious staffing crisis, with a burnt-out workforce, 93,000 NHS vacancies and no sign of any plan to address this."

Read the report Clearing the backlog caused by the pandemic 

Comment from Healthwatch England

Responding to the report, Jacob Lant, Head of Policy, Research and Partnerships at Healthwatch England said:

“The scale of the care backlog is immense, and in the face of such a challenge MPs are right to raise the risk of a return to a target driven approach that concentrates on addressing media headlines.

“What we need now is to reinforce a culture right across health and care services that will focus on delivering what patients and the public are crying out for. That’s a system that is easier to navigate and prioritises communicating with patients regularly to make sure they never feel forgotten, and that provides interim support, such as physiotherapy and mental health support, for people who are facing an extended wait for treatment.”