The Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs in the Commons on Tuesday that as many as 10m people stayed clear of the NHS during the pandemic.
Setting out his “new ambitious elective recovery plan, the NHS’s delivery plan for tackling the Covid-19 backlog of elective” warned there is now a “considerable Covid backlog of elective care.”
Javid told MPs in the Commons, “1,600 people have waited longer than a year for care before the pandemic. The latest data shows that this figure is now over 300,000.
“On top of this, the number of people waiting for elective care in England now stands at 6m – that is up from 4.4m before the pandemic.
“Sadly, this number will continue rising before it falls. A lot of people understandably stayed away from the NHS during the heights of the pandemic, and the most up-to-date estimate from the NHS is that that number is around 10m people.
“I want these people to know that the NHS is open. I want them to come forward for the care they need.”
Javid added, “We don’t know how many will now come forward” to the NHS for elective care.
He continued, “We don’t know whether it will be 30% or 80%’ so in developing the plan ‘the NHS has had to make a number of assumptions.”
The Health Secretary said, “Even if half of these people come forward, this is going to place huge demand on the NHS and we are pulling out all the stops so that the NHS is there for them when they do.”
Javid is pledging to cut the NHS elective surgery waiting times “by March 2025”and promised to pull “out all stops.”
Javid added to the House, “Addressing long waits is critical to the recovery of elective care and we will be actively offering longer waiting patients greater choice about their care to help bring these numbers down.
“The plan sets the ambition of eliminating waits of longer than a year, waits in elective care, by March 2025.
“With this no one will wait longer than two years by July this year and the NHS aims to eliminate the waits of over 18 months by April 2023 and over 65 weeks by March 2024.”
Javid also said, the NHS backlog plan aims to “increase capacity” with a list of reservist health workers.
He also outlined plans for later this month to “improve the information and support for patients” with a new online platform called My Planned Care.
Javid concluded, “I know the anxiety that patients feel when they are waiting for care, especially if they feel that they don’t have the certainty about where they sit in the queue, and I am determined to make sure that as we enter this next phase, we will be open and transparent with patients.”