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Innovations to tackle the backlog: discussion summary

With NHS waiting lists now reaching 5.6 million people, many with deteriorating health conditions, this Elective Treatment discussion at the NHS Backlog conference looked at innovations that have been effective in tackling the huge care backlog.

The Elective Treatment panel, part of the NHS Backlog conference, sought to share best practises across the health sector and to investigate the best improvements in technology, technique, and recovery to get people out of hospitals faster.

Panellists on the discussion were David Ezra, Managing Director of Vantage Health, Ellen Coughlan, Programme Manager – Analytical Capability at The Health Foundation and Jonathan Holmes, Policy Adviser at the The King’s Fund.

A summary of the discussion is below, and the full recording can be seen by clicking here.

Impact of backlog on patients and NHS services

  • Record waiting list, which now stands at 5.6 million people waiting for treatment, has had a huge impact on patients, NHS services and staff. 
  • Patients are not only living in pain and discomfort but their health is possibly deteriorating over time, with worsening outcomes.  
  • NHS services and staff have been under severe pressure and long term systemic changes are needed to make sure that patients are seen in a timely manner. 

Importance of innovation in addressing the backlog:

  • Different innovations have been effective in addressing the backlog.
  • Data driven analytical tools, which provide virtual care, can more accurately assess patients’ conditions and prioritise routine appointments according to need, giving the ability to cancel appointments that are not necessary. 
  • System that uses algorithms to guide clinicians at the point of referrals helps to ensure that patients are seen at the right place at the right time, reducing outpatient appointments that are not clinically necessary. 
  • Single point of access tool, that collects data on referrals, can identify bottlenecks in real time, which can be used to redesign services and improve efficiencies. 

Importance of collaboration & addressing inequalities:

  • NHS trusts came together over the pandemic to show true collaboration at all levels with a shared vision that enabled the implementation of innovation projects that improved levels of service delivery across the organisations.
  • Improving quality of data serves a number of purposes, including helping clinical decision making and, on a national level, shows how and who services are being used by, helping to reduce inequalities