NHS elective recovery plan: The King’s Fund responds

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Commenting on the NHS elective recovery plan, Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said:

‘This is a welcome plan, but the NHS will need more staff to make it a reality.

‘The plan brings together a series of initiatives that, if successfully implemented, will improve access to services for the many patients anxiously waiting for care in pain and discomfort. But, as this plan notes, it is important to recognise that the NHS backlog is bigger than the people waiting for planned hospital care – mental health and community services are also facing backlogs of care, and the pressure on general practice is leaving many people struggling to get an appointment. These services must not be overlooked by a national focus on hospital waiting lists. 

‘The targets in this plan look ambitious, especially as the disruption caused by Covid-19 makes it hard to predict how many patients will need care in the coming months. Analysis by The King’s Fund shows that people living in disadvantaged areas are waiting longer for treatment, so I welcome the recognition that national targets will need to be implemented in a way that rectifies these inequalities.

’More fundamentally, without enough clinical staff these targets will remain aspirational numbers in a plan rather than real change for patients. For many years the NHS has been hamstrung by chronic staff shortages, and today’s plan is a long way short of providing a comprehensive solution. To tackle the staffing crisis, government must move beyond repeating manifesto pledges and instead come forward with a fully funded workforce strategy.’

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.