Tackling the NHS Backlog in Lancashire and South Cumbria

Date posted: 17th February 2022

The NHS across Lancashire and South Cumbria is working together to make inroads into waiting lists, ensuring patients with the greatest clinical need and who have waited the longest are prioritised for care and treatment.

Recently announced plans show how the NHS will address backlogs built up during the COVID-19 pandemic and tackle long waits for care, with a massive expansion in capacity for tests, checks and treatments.

The delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care, published by NHS England last week, sets out plans to positively transform services. The plan focuses on four areas:

1.    Increasing health service capacity

2.    Prioritising diagnosis and treatment

3.    Transforming the way we provide elective care

4.    Providing better information and support to patients

The plan sets out ambitions, guidance and best practice to help systems address key issues, ensuring there is consistent focus on elective recovery for years to come. Supporting staff is also a key part of the recovery of elective services, recognising staff need to be looked after so they can look after patients. This plan will help the NHS deliver millions more tests, checks and procedures to patients.

In Lancashire and South Cumbria, funding already received from NHS England has proved critical in helping treat as many people as we can, as quickly as possible. This funding has helped to provide additional bed capacity in hospitals, improve pre- and post-operative patient assessments, and monitor patients remotely to reduce unnecessary admissions.

Initiatives to support elective recovery already underway include:

  • ChatBot. The simple AI contacts long waiting patients to check on their health status. The automated call system guides patients through a series of questions, which lets the NHS know if their condition has significantly worsened and possibly speed up their treatment, or lets them know if they no longer require treatment.
  • In Morecambe Bay, the Set for Surgery programme aims to optimise the health of all patients approaching surgery to reduce cancellations and improve their post-operative outcomes. Encouraging patients to exercise more, eat more healthily and adopt healthier behaviours can help reduce the length of stay in hospital, reduce complications from treatments, enhance recovery and, in some cases, avoid the need for an operation completely.
  • Creating additional bed capacity. A total of 101 beds have already been mobilised utilising accelerator funding.

The NHS in Lancashire and South Cumbria has also successfully secured further funding to support elective recovery for schemes including increasing elective and critical care capacity, and additional digital solutions.

Gary Doherty, Director of Service Development, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We are hugely grateful to the efforts of every single one of our staff in achieving the gains we have to date, especially against the backdrop of the North West being one of the areas of the country hardest bit by the pandemic. Our region has suffered the greatest losses, spent nearly two months longer in lockdown and an average of 10 per cent more hospital beds have been occupied by COVID-19 patients in the region compared to the rest of England.

“Staff have gone above and beyond to make sure patients who have needed us the most have been cared for during these unprecedented times. Despite funding coming to an end this month, we will be working hard to maintain the programmes of work put in place in an effort to reduce the waiting lists and continue to provide the best possible care to our communities.”

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