Delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care report image

A new plan to address backlogs built up during the COVID pandemic and tackle long waits for care has been published by the UK Government and the NHS, which outlines the role technology will play in helping clear these backlogs.

Entitled ‘Delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlog of elective care’, the plan aims to give patients greater control over their own health and offer greater choice of where to get care if they are waiting too long for treatment.

As part of the plan, teams of clinicians and teams will be able to get instant access to test results, offering patients faster clinical advice.

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Developed with royal colleges, patient groups and health charities, the plan further sets out how the NHS staff will make the best use of additional government funding to begin to address the COVID backlog. The NHS will aim to eliminate waits of over 18 months by April 2023.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our COVID Backlog Recovery Plan will help the NHS reduce waiting times, give patients more control over their care, and harness innovative technology to free up staff time so they can care for more people up and down the country can get the treatment they need.

“This is a vital step in radically rethinking how our health service delivers operations, treatment and checks as we look beyond the pandemic and learn to live with COVID-19.”

Although the plan focuses on clearing elective care waiting lists and expanding capacity for tests, checks and treatments, it sets out how technology solutions will play a role in supporting these plans.

Below, AT Today has highlighted some of the key ways technology will help tackle the elective care backlog.

Technology funding

To support elective recovery, the UK Government plans to spend £5.9 billion investment in capital for new beds, equipment and technology from 2022/23 to 2024/25. This fund will help expand bed capacity, modernise digital technology on the frontline, and reduce patient waiting times by increasing diagnostic activity.

Patient digital care platform

A new My Planned Care digital service to be launched later this year will tell patients when they should expect treatment and signpost them to support that can help them while they wait.

While instead of hospital administrators automatically scheduling follow-up appointments, doctors will talk to patients about whether and when it will most benefit them to be seen again, with patients able to rebook or cancel if they change their mind or if their health needs change, so minimising disruption to a patient’s daily life while freeing up clinicians’ time for new patients and those with the greatest clinical need.

Freeing up capacity

The plan underlines the government’s and NHS’ ambitions to use digital technology to free up clinician capacity to focus on patients whose needs cannot be met virtually and deliver services in new ways that more efficiently meet the needs of both patients and staff.

For example, technology-supported virtual wards that enable recovery at home for those with COVID-19 have now been extended to a wide range of conditions. Supervising clinicians see data from the home setting and use of virtual wards means more hospital beds are available for those needing inpatient care.

As well as freeing up clinician time by using technology to alleviate pressures, technology can also be used to enable people to receive care in their own homes, the plan highlights. This would build on the success of current virtual wards following “extremely positive” feedback from patients on this model of care.

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