Responding to the Health and Social Care Select Committee (HSCSC) inquiry on clearing the backlog of care caused by the pandemic, Dr Layla McCay director of policy at the NHS Confederation said:
“Coronavirus and the Omicron strain have significantly disrupted services for patients and this important report is right to highlight that this extends beyond elective procedures. Primary care, mental health and community services are all responding to their own backlogs exacerbated by the pandemic and will need ongoing support to ensure they can adequately meet the needs of their local communities.
“NHS staff absences are double what they traditionally would be at this time of year, hospital admissions for COVID-19 are twice what would typically be seen for all types of respiratory infections, and we are seeing more trusts declare critical incidents.
“The NHS is doing everything it can to prevent Omicron from overrunning its services, with the most recent data showing that 150,000 procedures were carried out in a single month, alongside more diagnostic tests. This includes by running COVID-19 virtual wards, beginning to set up the surge hubs, supporting people to stay well in the community, and delivering the vaccination programme. However, the NHS is at the mercy of how effectively the Government and public can curb the spread of the virus and its impact on frontline health and care workers.
“We agree with the Health Select Committee that the greatest threat to tackling the care backlog is the staffing crisis and that there needs to be independently audited assessments at regular intervals on the NHS’s workforce requirements. Almost 9 in 10 healthcare leaders we surveyed last year told us a lack of staffing in the NHS is putting patient safety and care at risk.
“Without a properly planned and resourced strategy for recruiting to the 93,000 vacancies in the NHS, any recovery strategy will fail.”